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Sunday, November 27, 2011


(Pic by Val Adamson: Clare Mortimer; Lisa Bobbert; Krystle Temmerman, and Nondumiso Tembe )

Playhouse pulls off spectacular triumph for the festive season. (Review by Caroline Smart)

With South Africa’s top theatre makers, director Ralph Lawson and designer Keith Anderson in the driving seats; a stellar cast; a fine production crew and the live backing of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra conducted alternately by Lykele Temmingh and Naum Rousine, expectations were high for the Playhouse Company’s main production for the festive season.

We weren’t disappointed. Cinderella is a visual feast from start to finish, filled with magical effects, soaring sets and extravagant costumes. David Gouldie’s choreography is lively and Juan Burgers has prepared his singers well. The cast pulled together as a well-oiled team and the Playhouse Opera, that grand old lady of Durban theatre, played her part in responding to efficient scene changes and technical expertise.

In the role of Cinderella, Nondumiso Tembe proved that she is now a star in her own right and a force to be reckoned with. She has a fine voice and clear articulation - her American accent is genuine, by the way (she grew up in the States and is now based in Los Angeles). Her Cinderella is no pushover. This is no blushing rosebud but a spunky, feisty, outspoken young woman who passionately believes in the power of dreams.

As her handsome modern-day thinking prince, Ryan Flynn matches her energy vocally as well as with his flair for comedy. The scenes in which they explore their love for each other are tender and believable.

Providing most of the laughs is the unbeatable trio of Lisa Bobbert, a stepmother from hell who barks orders like a sergeant major, and her two ditsy daughters, Grace (Krystle Temmerman) and Joy (Clare Mortimer). The latter two are dressed in the most outrageous costumes and spend most of their time squabbling - except in their delightful number, Stepsisters’ Lament.

Playing the King and Queen with cool elegance are Cobus Venter and Marion Loudon with Darren King a delight as the long-suffering Herald who has his work cut out to cover up the prince’s incognito forays into the world of his subjects. Lauren Dasappa’s opera-trained voice does full justice to the music – but this is not your everyday Fairy Godmother, this one has strong links to Chatsworth or Phoenix!

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical was originally written for television. In working on Tom Briggs’ stage adaptation from the teleplay by Robert L. Freedman, Ralph Lawson readily admits that it poses special challenges in being reworked for the stage. In film, you can work with different locations and then simply join them together in the edit suite. Magical sequences such as Cinderella being transformed from her dowdy kitchen clothes into a spectacular outfit can be created digitally. However, in live theatre this must happen before the audience’s eyes without them “seeing the process”, as it were.

All kudos to whoever was involved with Cinderella from the highest to the lowest level in creating a production of theatrical excellence. This is the first-ever production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s magical musical to be staged anywhere in Africa.

Cinderella runs in the Playhouse Opera Theatre until December 31. Booking is at Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or online at Block bookings at discounted ticket prices from Computicket or Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540 (office hours). Don’t miss this one! – Caroline Smart