Is there anything better than the sound of children gleefully laughing at poop jokes in a theatre? It turns out to be one of the many delights offstage and on, as Neptune Theatre presents the summer remount of Jeremy Webb’s audaciously funny Cinderella.
This is no ordinary retelling of the classic fairy tale though. Taking its cue from the British panto tradition, this free-wheeling show encourages the audience to boo for the bad guys, cheer for the good, and sing-along to its many recognizable songs.
Throw in some hilarious characters, a few modern and topical references, like the township of Bedford joke that had the audience rolling in the aisles, and it is easy to see why this Cinderella has audiences flocking inside again during these warmer summer nights.
Opening with an homage to Star Wars, things only get nuttier from there. Webb goes to town with his script to include a stuttering prince, a tap dancing servant, a fairy godmother on a scooter, and a pair of selfie-taking stepsisters. And this able cast of twelve is right beside him for the ride, singing, dancing, and acting their hearts out for two-and-a-half hours. Not surprisingly, so is the audience.
Leading the charge onstage is Samantha Walkes as Cinderella. A beautiful singer, a warm performer, and a no-nonsense princess. If this were Sleeping Beauty you would best believe she’d be the one doing the rescuing. With a killer voice throughout the show, one particular highlight comes in the act one finale with “This is Me”, lovingly borrowed from the Pasek and Paul penned film, The Greatest Showman.
Which leads us to another thing you need to know about panto: you can be guaranteed some of your favourite songs are eventually going to pop-up during the show. Thankfully, what could easily be bad karaoke is more akin to American Idol with the talented singers Webb and music director Lisa St. Clair have assembled. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cinderella and her prince fall in love while singing Heart’s “Alone”, this is the show for you.
As the fairy godmother and Cinderella’s father, Martha Irving and Troy Adams bring seasoned comic sensibilities to their roles. Irving is especially good here as the dotty Fairy Godmother (Third Class) rocking out to Katy Perry’s “Firework”.
While often the Stepsisters in a panto-Cinderella are played by men in drag, Webb opts for the talented Becca Guilderson and Ann Doyle instead.
With their too high hair and too much make-up, the two women throw shade at Cinderella as they mug their way through Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. While perhaps a bit too likeable as “wicked” Stepsisters, considering there were no boos heard from the audience, the duo were still appropriately nasty. .
And while the Stepsisters are likely the best-known pair from any Cinderella story, this version has a duo that works so well together it’s nothing short of comedy gold.
As Prince Charmin (this is not a spelling mistake) and a French Canadian steward named Boutons, Ryan Brown and Andrew Prashad don’t just steal the show, they take it, wrap it up, and give it to you for Christmas. Then you thank them for it.
Brown’s hilariously shy, yet cocky, Prince Charmin is torn straight out of Into the Woods and Prashad’s love-struck Boutons not only manages a fully realized character inside this fairy tale, he is also an incredible tap dancer.
Making what they do seem so effortless, it is a joy to watch. Exchanging zingers at lightning speed, with a palpable chemistry, they are obviously having a great deal of fun, and it is infectious. One can only hope that Webb has something up his sleeve for the pair in this season’s holiday offering of Peter Pan.
Special mention must also go to the ensemble of Deborah Castrilli, Stephane Gaudet, Amanda Mattar, Matt Raffy and Sarah Rorabeck, who work their way through the show with ease, even though their lightning fast costume changes must be just as choreographed.
Kudos too to set designer Patrick Clark, costume designer Helena Marriott and lighting designer Leigh Ann Vardy for keeping the magic alive. At the risk of any spoilers, let’s just say that Cinderella’s transformation at the end of act one may very well bring tears to your eyes, and shivers up your spine.
Go see Cinderella at the Neptune Theatre. Even if you’re a thirty-something, childless guy like me I promise you will leave with a smile on your face and a pep in your step. And if not, I’m sure Neptune is still looking for a few “baddies” for next season’s panto.
Cinderella, written and directed by Jeremy Webb. A Neptune Theatre production. On stage at the Fountain Hall (1593 Argyle Street, Halifax) until August 18. Visit neptunetheatre.com for tickets and information.