Cinderella shows signs of growing up a little this year

By Lesley Stones 1 November 2011

This may take some living down, but I actually caught myself enjoying this classic pantomime. Smiling and laughing and singing along too, to be honest. I even stood up with the rest of the audience to shake my bootie. How embarrassing, confesses LESLEY STONES.

Yes, I admit, I enjoyed Cinderella despite a long-enduring dislike of pantos. The thing is, South African pantos rarely have enough of that two-tier level of comedy that lets the children laugh innocently while the adults chuckle at the clever satire or hidden innuendoes, so all ages have an equally good time. The local productions are usually brilliant for kids, if a touch too long, but pretty damn tedious for adults.

This year Janice Honeyman’s Cinderella is again mostly for the kids, but with a smattering of adult-orientated jokes to keep us entertained too. There are still not enough, but when they come, they’re much appreciated. The script is pretty standard fare: a bit of chit chat, a couple of jokes, then a lively and familiar pop song or three. There’s the obligatory sing-along, the soppy love songs, and the traditional boy meets girl, loses girl, finds girl and lives happily ever after finale.

You know what you’re going to get, and Cinderella delivers it beautifully. Except for the Ugly Sisters played by Tobie Cronjé and Robert Whitehead, who do it brilliantly but very un-beautifully, with their gaudy make up, spectacularly bad costumes and bitchy behaviour. They make a wonderfully cantankerous pair and ham it up delightfully.

In this racially harmonious world of a fairytale it’s good to see a black Prince Charming (Bongi Mthombeni), who has a winning personality and lovely voice. Carmen Pretorius is equally impressive as the inevitable pretty blonde Cinders, and together they perform some lovely duets. Much of the humour comes from Sibu Radebe as Buttons, a bundle of fun and energy with a nice sideline in dejected faces when his love for Cinders goes unrequited.

This year the show has more than its usual Afrikaans content due to Anna-Mart van der Merwe playing the buxom fairy godmother, a role she relishes as she easily draws the audience under her spell.

The cast is large, the dancing is lively, the plot is reassuringly predictable and there were two real highlights. One is the sheer visual impact, with glorious stage sets, fantasmagorical costumes, impressive touches like the Prince and his cohort arriving on stage by car and motorbike, and a flying, glittering carriage.

The other memorable moment was the appearance of six tiny young ballroom dancers, four of them maybe only six years old. They danced beautifully and any remaining hard hearts in the audience instantly melted. Even mine. DM

Cinderella runs at Joburg Theatre until 30 December.


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