The long weeks of learning lines, practising songs and rehearsing scenes and dance sequences culminated in another excellent Packwood drama production. The theatre resounded to appreciative laughter, pantomime responses and loud applause on Friday and Saturday evening throughout the performances of Cinderella – The Truth.
The production was a re-working of the traditional fairy tale that gave plenty of scope for song, dance and Mr Cowley’s trademark humour. He told me he had great fun in the summer holidays ripping out the old songs from the script, and trying to place Abba songs in appropriate places. It was now, he said, Cinderella – The Truth, with a twist of Abba. The mix he planned so well, certainly worked!
The production in the large part relies on Italics for the ironic flavour of the whole show. Though he is essentially the narrator, it is he who seems to own the play. His appearances comment deftly on the action along with a knowing wit. Tom B was terrific in this role, thanks to his deadpan delivery and superb comic timing.
The first scene opens at a party in the royal palace with a fantastically choreographed dance to Mamma Mia. Kutenda C from the start was a very convincing and charismatic ‘upper class twit’ in his portrayal of Prince Pompous, a fun-loving dilettante with ambitions to be a poet. His fearsome and domineering mother, the Queen, realistically brought to life by Genevieve B, does not approve of his literary leanings and is determined that her son should marry or lose his inheritance. To help in the search for an appropriate bride the prince decides to send out invitations to a ball.
Next, the audience meets Cinderella with Eve L playing the part with grace and poise. Her song, I Have a dream, was beautifully and poignantly sung. We find her in predictably deprived circumstances scrubbing the floor and working through a long list of household chores for her outrageous ugly sisters, Petal and Blossom. The sisters were magnificent! Played with scene-stealing confidence by Flora R and Lucy C, they are terrifying, man-eating party animals on a quest to find husbands. As very chavvy ‘Essex’ girls, they played their parts with a wonderful humour and a great sense of timing, climaxing in their rendition of Gimme Gimme a Man after Midnight!
Cinderella’s life is made a little easier by the affectionate attention of Spanners, the sisters’ chauffeur, played by Tom T, who was great as an obsessively enthusiastic car-nut. Postman Pat sensitively played by Keith A, also has feelings for Cinderella. Their quest to get Cinderella’s affection is comically played out in Take a Chance on Me as they comically fight for attention, and later poor Postman Pat sings the emotional The Winner Takes It All when he hears that Cinderella is in love with the Prince. Their songs were real highlights of the show. Mention must also be made of doddery old butler, Manners (Ed S) and the wildly eccentric professor, Cinderella’s father, (Cai H). Both boys played these parts strikingly with some fantastic physical comedy and wonderfully expressive delivery of their lines,
Cinderella hears of the forthcoming ball on a trip to the market, peopled with a comical array of village characters, including a very obliging cow (Imogen M and Isabel P) and a sneering, cackling witch (Georgie K), cracking jokes as she awaits her fate tied to a stake atop a pile of wood. Cinderella undergoes some ill-advised dental work performed by the enthusiastic but incompetent Den Ture (Florence A) and her assistant, Floss (Lulu B) emerging with a set of sparkling new false teeth. Pompous Policeman, Eddie W, kept up the pace in this excellent village scene.
Elsa W was superb as The Godmother, a tough but witty leader of the Mafiosi-style henchmen, who sympathetically cheers up Cinderella with the song Chiquita and then helps her get to the ball, warning her to leave before midnight.
At the ball, the second Cinderella played by Liberty C (the part was split into two) finds she is confused as she has fallen for the Prince and expresses this beautifully in her song, What’s The Name of the Game. However, the clock strikes and Cinderella dashes out losing her false teeth rather than the traditional slipper as she leaves. This means that Liberty had the audience in fits of laughter, as she tried to convey her predicament without her teeth. Fortunately, all ends happily, as Cinderella is united with her teeth in the last scene. They are a perfect fit!
As ever, it was a real team effort with Mr Chambers, Miss Lowe, Mrs Besterman, Miss Mainwaring and Mr and Mrs Boutwood all providing invaluable assistance and all supported by an extensive backstage crew of staff and pupils. Scenery and costumes were outstanding as always thanks to the resourcefulness and creative talents of Mr Dougan and Mrs Jones.
The closing number Dancing Queen was an amazing climax to the show with the whole cast of more than 50 children on stage, singing and dancing. Finally, Lucy M wrapped things up in style with her exquisite performance of Thank You for the Music – a wonderful, uplifting end to a great production.