Rainbow Stage’s Cinderella – Preview Performance Tues. Aug. 13th
Directed by Rob Herriot
Conducted by Paul De Gurse
Choreographed by Alexandra Herzog
(Full Creative Team credits here)
Cinderella: Colleen Furlan
(Prince) Topher – Darren Martens
(Fairy Godmother) Marie – Paula Potosky
(Full Cast credits here)
Promo trailer viewable here
Rainbow Stage’s production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is rich, lush and sumptuous at every turn. The score, by one of the top (if not the top) American music theatre composers, Richard Rogers, is an absolute gem. As there were only a few pieces I recognized, this is not one of their more famous shows, but I am absolutely in love with this classic score after one listening. It was in fact enlightening to go see a show whose music I didn’t know very well, and to just let the whole experience wash over me. I was totally captivated by the top-notch acting, singing and dancing in this show.
This is Cinderella before she was “Disney-fied”. The smart, updated script had a few cliff hangers (as much as “Cinderella cliff-hanger” sounds like euphemism) and provided more than a few laugh-out-loud moments. As Cinderella’s stepmother Madame, Melanie Whyte was over-the-top evil, extravagant and larger than life. As Jean-Michel, Aaron Hutton was wonderfully extravagant, complex and compelling. Colleen Furlan as (Cinder)Ella and Darren Martens as (Prince)Topher were a wonderfully matched pair, both in their stellar vocal delivery and their mutual attraction as star-crossed lovers. The Town Crier/Lord Pinkelton (Nelson Bettencourt) had my teenage daughter and her friend in stitches with his panache, expressivity and hilarious sight gags.
Bravo to Rainbow Stage for giving this production the orchestra it needed – a crack 15-piece ensemble conducted by Paul De Gurse. Their playing was smart, insightful and well-balanced, and the various elements of folksiness that peeked through the texture were charming. The piece, although in reality quite long, is kept moving by the action in the script, and is propelled by the music – like a masterclass in how to best serve a smart script (tastefully updated by Douglas Carter Beane) with some archetypal music theatre orchestral textures.
(Spoiler alert!) The dress changeovers were nothing short of miraculous, and literally took my breath away and had my heart in my throat. Besides the amazing dress transformation, the other costumes used in the production looked beautiful and the formal wear was especially opulent. If music theatre always looked and sounded like this, people would continue to show up in droves like they did at this preview – almost a full house.
I’m very proud of Rainbow’s all-local casting. Why fly in Toronto musical theatre performers when we have the same high calibre of performers here? Not only does it make economic sense, it’s very smart in terms of community engagement, plus it builds capacity for our thriving arts scene. Speaking of building capacity, there is one person in this city who has done more than anyone to provide us with a wealth of top-notch music theatre performers, and that person in Donna Fletcher. When I look at the names and backgrounds of so many of tonight’s performers, I see that Fletcher’s tutelage, as a voice teacher and also director of the fabulous Musical Theatre Ensemble at the University of Manitoba (which I had the pleasure of working with a few years back) has dramatically increased the quality and quantity of musical theatre performers in this city. And this is a scene that thrives against the odds, providing income for artists, and generating a tremendous amount of money ($1.4 billion a year, according to Economic Development Winnipeg) for our local economy, despite the feeble support from our stingy Provincial government.
With such an honest and luxurious production as Cinderella, Rainbow Stage is doing a huge service to the genre of music theatre, and indeed to our city. We are lucky to have a company the calibre of Rainbow Stage as part our community, putting on such compelling shows with exceptional performers, musicians, and technical personnel, all in a lovely family-friendly outdoor venue. But can we talk about those women’s bathroom lineups…?