Review: Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society’s Cinderella

Magical! This word sums up Littlehampton Musical Comedy Societys recent production of Cinderella at the Windmill Theatre, Littlehampton.

Everything about the show was enchanting - even the theatre walls were adorned with tiny felt mice. So much planning and thought had gone into making this modern version of Cinderella, and all tickets were sold out well before Christmas.

A strong cast of almost fifty members were skilfully directed by Kelly Manchee, and choreographed by Karen Etherington. John Woodman and his musicians were tucked away behind the scenery, in order that extra staging could be used for the cast, but the unseen musical ensemble were excellent, accompanying songs as varied as Footloose and For All We Know.

Georgina Coombes, in her first lead role with the Company, was a beautiful and accomplished Cinderella, with great stage presence, and she sang and danced her way into everyone’s hearts, especially Buttons portrayed by Alexei Hawkey. He was a complete tour-de-force as he raced around the stage encouraging lots of audience participation, and showed a natural penchant for comedy, mixed with the inevitable pathos of never winning Cinderella’s heart.

Justine Richardson literally shone as the Fairy Godmother, characterising the role with a strong Northern accent, and casting spells over both the cast and audience.

The Ugly Sisters, played by John Carroll and Jonathan Groves, looked splendid in their ever-changing array of costumes and wigs, and sparked “boos” from the audience with every entrance, as did Michelle Shepherd-Ede as the wicked stepmother, Baroness Hardup, who managed to be evil and look very glamorous at the same time!

Making a memorable first appearance with the Society, Paul Taylor, was an endearing Baron Hardup, constantly under his wife’s thumb, but of course, triumphing in the closing scene.

Turning the tables on tradition, the role of Prince Charming was played by Poldark lookalike Craig Etherington, who showed what a fine singing voice he possesses. Playing his valet, Dandini, and looking every inch the principal boy, was Georgina Hoole, who traditionally wore fishnet tights and slapped her thigh at every opportunity!

This version of Cinderella, written by David Phipps-Davis, introduced a secondary story and characters made up of King Le Foo (Mark Roberts), Queen Constantine (Ruth Roberts) and their sons Bill (Oliviero Natale) and Harold (Barry Bastable), all of whom gave excellent supporting performances, as did Damone Whittle as the Lady Chamberlain and Ian Sheppard as the Town Crier.

The dialogue (which was sometimes a bit lengthy for the younger members of the audience) was full of jokes, old and new, and with plenty of local flavour, and everyone joined in with competitive gusto with the community song and hissed and booed and joined in the repartit - Oh, yes they did!

The show moved at a cracking pace, and the dancers, both tiny and adult, were outstanding. A cleverly constructed set and back projection gave the show an added dimension.

Finally, mention has to be made of the Wardrobe Department, as the costumes were amazing, especially when Cinderella’s rags were transformed into a ballgown. The audience audibly gasped and couldn’t believe what they were witnessing as Cinders pirouetted and her outfit transformed in front of their very eyes! Surely Derren Brown or Dynamo were in the wings?!

For 65 years Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society have been entertaining the people of Littlehampton and district. This was their 54th pantomime, and the Society deserve to be congratulated and thanked for all the hard work they have put in over the years. In August the Society will be performing “Acorn Antiques, the Musical” by Victoria Wood. Be sure to book early!

Gill Kelly

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