Dundee Rep Theatre
Until 31st Dec 2022
It is impossible to look at some fairy tales and not see them through the lens Disney has placed on them. And Cinderella is one of those fairy tales one simply can’t get away from. We see forms of it everywhere, but they always tell the same story. Thankfully, Dundee Rep’s new musical of this tale as old as time doesn’t tie with the old tradition of love at first sight. It is a gradual story and does not end in the titular character getting married.
Cinderella in the Rep’s production is a girl working the land her father built his dreams on, and she tries to live up to those dreams, living in the past of both her parents’ accomplishments. But her stepmother, Lenore, has a plan up her sleeve. Lenore was abandoned when the Stock Market crashed and has been bitter ever since. Getting rich is the only thing on Lenore’s mind and it infects the characters of her two children. This can be seen in her styling. Like a viper, she is clad in bright colours, warning people to come not a step nearer. If you do, you’ll be bitten. Her costuming is something Widow Twanky would certainly be proud of.
Of course, the evil stepmother is thwarted by Cinderella and her four closest friend. There’s Liam King, standing in for the prince, the son of the show’s very charismatic villain, an entrepreneur with little conscience who uses his son to get in amongst the action. Then there is Leftie and Rightie, Cinderella’s two boots that she uses as puppets to fill the void in her lonely working life. Finally there’s Florence, the not-so-ugly step-sister, who helps Cinderella’s story become viral in the plan to stop the farm being turned into a housing development. Here are characters richly realised.
But this is no typical piece of theatre. The musical makes clear the importance of working with nature and not pummelling the soils we use to grow our crops. And Cinderella preaches the usefulness of reducing, reusing and recycling, the plot point that saves the day. It is Cinderella with a purpose, long removed from the garish and dark versions given us by Perrault and his cohorts, and removed, indeed, from the Disneyfied versions we know too well.
The use of live music in this production was fantastic, though some of the lyrics, as a children’s piece, were a bit clunky, given the forced rhyming that comes with writing songs for this genre. Yet I cannot escape the feeling that the production is missing something. What I think was missing was a prelude, introducing Cinderella’s mother and father, since they are apparently integral parts of Cinderella’s character and her desire to grow things and help the planet. Yet that begins a little too late into the story for me to care about stakes. However the missing piece this is made up for by the climax of the story which is a perfect feel-good moment for cast and audience alike.
This musical will be enjoyed by everyone visiting the Rep. With live music, lively songs, compelling characters, and a lovable pair of goofballs in the shape of Leftie and Rightie, I give this piece a tip of the hat since it had me leaving the theatre with a bright and beaming smile.