Directed by Rowan Alfred
Cinderella, whose beloved father has died, takes care of the home of her ill-tempered and selfish stepmother and stepsisters. She carries all of their shopping parcels for them, but longs for a life better than the one she is living. Daydreaming, she bumps into the prince, who is disguised as a civilian. They immediately hit it off, but are interrupted before long as the royal steward enters and proclaims: “The Prince Is Giving a Ball”. The ladies of the kingdom are thrilled at the prospect of meeting him, none moreso than Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and stepsisters. When they return home, all three order Cinderella about. Left alone in her corner near the fire, she dreams of living an exotic life as a princess or anything other than a servant. As Cinderella’s stepsisters get ready for the Ball, hoping that they will catch the Prince’s eye, they laugh at Cinderella’s dreams, destroying her late mother’s dress in the process. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears and, persuaded not by Cinderella’s wishes and dreams, but instead by her determination to attend the ball, regardless of the situation, transforms her tattered clothes into a beautiful dress, and a pumpkin into a carriage. Cinderella, without a moment to lose, leaves for the ball.
The Prince has been bored by the attention of all the young ladies with whom he has had to dance, including the stepsisters. Cinderella’s grand entrance immediately attracts everyone’s attention and intrigues the Prince. They dance together and instantly fall in love. As they share a kiss, the clock begins to strike midnight, and Cinderella flees before the magic wears off; but in her haste, she drops a glass slipper. The next day the Prince searches for the beauty with whom he danced, and who fled so quickly from the Ball. His steward tries the slipper on all the women of the kingdom. At Cinderella’s house, the slipper will not fit any of the ladies. Cinderella’s stepmother tries to steer them away from Cinderella, however he suddenly realises that she is both the girl he met in the town square, and the girl he danced with at the ball. He tries the slipper on and, it fits.
We may not have all the details for this production, if you have any pictures or information please let us know!
Mark Stench II
Lighting & Sound
Dave & Kate Maltby
Assistant Production Manager
Friends of VAMPS
Artwork & Programme
Front of House Manager
Front of House Team
Members of VAMPS & St Neots Players
Priory Centre, St Neots
Author: Julie Armstrong
What a lovely warm welcome I received upon my arrival at The St Neots Priory Centre for VAMPS’ production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. An enchanting show, full of wonder and magic, I was looking forward to a great evening’s entertainment and was offered a beautifully presented programme to let me know what was ahead. (I was also very pleased to see a charming tribute to Sandra Samwell in the programme – thank you VAMPS.) There were beautifully packaged sweets on offer for the younger members of the audience and a pleasant bar area for the not quite so young. The auditorium, and the front of house staff, was warm and welcoming – a very pleasant start to the evening’s events.
The audience took their seats in anticipation, whereupon a live announcement was made to remind people to turn off their mobile phones along with some obligatory health and safety notes. This was delivered in such a confident manner and with some added innuendo which had the audience smiling from the start – and we were left wondering whether this gentleman should be appearing on the stage this evening rather than at the back with technicals!
The lights dimmed, and a strange looking character, who looked as though she had stepped straight off the set of Rent, shuffled along the central aisle to the stage, hauling her shopping cart, laden with her worldly belongings, with her. She noisily slurped the remains of her takeaway cup through a straw and – in her own time – introduced us to the story. This, we were to later discover, was The Fairy Godmother, brilliantly portrayed by Tanya Grisson, looking more like a homeless person and with as much sass and attitude as you can imagine – and from the moment she ambled onto that stage she had the audience in the palm of her hand ……. and I was hooked.
The faultless four piece band led by director and MD Rowan Marshall, struck up the opening chords and the curtains opened to reveal a stark, partly stepped set and the ensemble busily going about their day to day lives. They are dressed in modern day costume. It should be said here that watching Rowan play and seeing the passion he exudes was a joy. This was maintained right through to the very last bars of the performance and one could clearly see all the blood, sweat and tears of the rehearsal process melting away as Rowan enjoyed every second of leading the band. It is wonderful to witness someone loving their craft, whether it be on or off the stage and Rowan’s passion shone through.
We then see Cinderella, played by Hannah Williams, balancing a multitude of parcels belonging to her stepmother and stepsisters, eventually bumping in to Prince Christopher, ably played by Matt Shaw, and they instantly hit it off as he helps her to retrieve her spilled packages. Personally, I found it initially hard to differentiate between the lead characters here and the townsfolk, as they were all dressed in ‘normal’ clothes. In fact for me, the jeans and T-shirts made it feel as though I had stumbled upon a rehearsal, rather than the finished production. This was a brave decision and an interesting choice to set the piece in the present day. There were however some touches that really worked for me, for example, the use of mobile phones ( I especially liked the ensembles’ mobiles all ringing at once and yes, I did notice the Crazy Frog ringtone in there!) and I would have liked to have seen this avenue explored a little further. I also enjoyed the ensemble’s scene in black costumes and glowing white gloves – very creative and interesting to watch.
At the end of the opening musical number a parade of children, ranging from 5 to 13 years, took to the stage. Spreading out downstage, with the full ensemble behind them, they led the singing superbly and were the ultimate professionals. Awesome show faces, and some lovely singing and dancing, these children delighted us with their opening number and again later on as little mice, dancing around Cinderella during her solo number In My Own Little Corner with beautiful mousey costumes.
We are introduced to the deliciously awful stepsisters, Grace and Joy, beautifully portrayed by Katie Kitson and Emma Evans respectively. Their bickering, and brattish tantrums, were a delight to watch as they squabbled over anything and everything – I would just watch the diction here, as the excitement sometimes overran the dialogue and we were left wondering what exactly it was they were arguing over this time! This was particularly evident in their duet The Stepsister’s Lament, which is a fabulous comedy song, but can be less entertaining if the audience struggles to hear the words. However, the characterisation in this song shone through, helping us to laugh at their antics and amusing us with their facial expressions.
Their equally appalling mother was played by Belinda Hicks, who was taking her first steps into a lead role. I would have liked a little more ‘nastiness’ for this character, the baddies can always have a bit more fun with their characterisation and can afford to be a bit more ‘over the top’. In the audience we want to dislike the bad guys, so please make us feel that we do. I am sure that nerves played a part here, but just relax and embrace the wickedness!
We later meet the King and Queen, Ian Worsfold and Emmeline Lyster, who handled their roles nicely with some pleasing results. The King’s underpants were a lovely touch and an inspired choice – and I particularly enjoyed the interplay created in this scene. Also part of the Palace entourage was Lionel, the Royal Steward, played by Huw Nadin. Unbelievably, this is Huw’s first foray on to the stage since school, having helped backstage for previous shows – however, he appeared to be so at home there that one would have assumed he was a seasoned professional! Lovely characterisation for this role and super projection, ensuring that everyone at the back of the hall and beyond could hear Lionel’s every word.
The closing scene of Act 1 whisks us away to the The Pumpkin Patch, where the fabulous Fairy Godmother is transforming Cinderella so that she is totally Ball ready! The pumpkins and scarecrow in this scene were delightful – and as the large central pumpkin, rose into the sky, we watched in awe as – flash, bang, wallop – it magically transformed into a full size sparkling carriage fit for a princess! The meek and mild Cinderella, once in ripped black jeans and a grey hoodie now shone in her blue ball gown, and I would have also liked to see this change a little more in her character too. I have no doubt that the shy young scullery maid would be thrilled and amazed by the magic that was surrounding her and the anticipation of the night ahead. However, a lovely scene to finish Act 1 that left us wanting more, and wondering how Cinderella would get on at the Ball.
Act 2 opens with the full ensemble dancing the night away in the Royal Ballroom. Poor Prince Christopher is introduced to a number of ill-suited young ladies in the quest to find a him a bride and Matt played this part for laughs as he struggled to regain his composure time after time. Excellent characterisation here. The gentlemen of the ensemble bravely attempted some choreography of their own downstage (look up boys!) and it would have been lovely to see everyone in the background of this scene smiling, so that we feel confident that you are enjoying yourselves at the Ball. There were in fact several occasions where this would have helped in the ensemble. Of course there are nerves, ‘will I get my steps right?’, ‘where do I go next?’ and so on – but please don’t let that transfer to the audience. A big smile convinces us that you know exactly what you are doing – even when you don’t.
For me the staging, lack of scenery and minimal props here perhaps took away some of the enchantment and magic of the glorious Ball scene. Everybody knows the Cinderella story and there will always be an anticipation and expectation in advance of the show. I personally found that this approach left me wanting more – more wonderment and awe, and I feel that perhaps the children in the audience may have felt the same way. As adults we know the story, we can use our imaginations to set the scene, but as this is predominantly a family show, aimed in particular at young children, I felt that creating a little more magic for the younger members of the audience would have been beneficial here. That said, the lighting and sound were both very good, helping to create the atmosphere of the piece. Well done to the technical team who were very well rehearsed and did not have one slip up all night – a super job.
Cinderella flees the Ball, when the clock chimes midnight, and we find ourselves back at the Stepmother’s house where Grace and Joy are discussing the evening’s events, with not an ounce of grace or joy between them – well done ladies! As the Prince arrives with the glass slipper the hideous sisters both attempt to squeeze their feet into the delicate shoe with hilarious results. Of course, Cinderella appears and the slipper fits to the delight of the Prince and everyone in the audience. This is the fairytale ending we have all been hoping for and I would have liked to feel this a little more – again, more smiles and wonderment from the ensemble would have helped to create the magic here. However, the children came on for the finale and all was well, as they lifted the scene with their wonderful smiles and enchanting faces. There is usually one child who can be seen waving at Mummy, scratching their ear, or watching the actors behind them, for example. Not in this production! The children were all beautifully behaved on stage, and performed perfectly throughout. Congratulations kids on an awesome performance – you are the future stars of VAMPS in years to come – and the future’s looking bright ahead!