Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Theatre! Mini-Reviews: 'Cinderella' and 'Anne and Gilbert'


The revival of this lesser known Rodgers and Hammerstein piece opened last week here on its National Tour after mixed reviews ( though a few Tonys!) on Broadway.

I knew nothing about the music or the adaptation of the story before I went .  I confess that I was disappointed with the book to the musical : some of the lyrics being forced to rhyme together while the secondary plots weren’t really developed at all.  While the orchestration was a dream, the lyrics were stilted and too often expected without the turn of nuanced phrase that contributes to the lasting impressions of other musicals by the pair like Sound of Music and The King and I.

That being said every single actor on the stage was top-notch, the voices soared through the beautiful Edwardian Mirvish theatre and the dancing was divine.  The costumes were slight of hand and really quite as magical as the subject matter and the sets of enchanted forest and glistening palace alike.    

An opulent musical with expert staging that just suffers from some lukewarm storytelling.  Cast and crew  nor composer to blame.

p.s. how does she do that dress change before the ball? I have no clue. Youtube has been no help.

We went off to Ottawa for this one! 

This is a musical that has become a staple in Charlottetown and Summerside during the summer: a sort of continuation of the favourite Anne of GG Musical which I am not afraid to admit I loathe.    This is a far more mature piece and actually a pretty close adaptation of Anne of the Island. Unlike other adaptations, and indeed the book itself, it really excels at digging a little deeper into Gilbert’s perspective.  While the first act was a bit scattered, I found things really tightened in the second when Anne and Gil, Moody and Josie end up at Redmond.  Here, Anne meets the equally luminous and flirtatious Philippa and her upper class beau Royal Gardner. All while Gil sits on the sidelines, hoping Anne finally catches up to him.

The staging was great: a sort of an elaborate puzzle with pieces that interlocked and spread apart. The costumes, too, were first rate and the choreography was great.   Musically, I was impressed at how the score was infused with the flavour of Maritime music.  This is not big, robust orchestra musical music: this is sweet and chime-like, making great use of the fiddle and, in some cases, crystalline voices.  The two strongest voices in the cast belonged to Anne (thank goodness) and Roy.  Though the actresses playing Marilla and Rachel Lynde both had fine voices and a marvelous duet. 

Apparently, on the Island ( where I will probably see it next summer) the auditorium at the Guild theatre is quite intimate.  The National Arts centre is a mid-sized theatre with great acoustics and allowed the production to breathe a little. It makes great use of its space.

Finally, if you’ve spent your life pining for boy-next-door Gil Blythe, this musical was written for you. It self-consciously parades the idealization of Gilbert, every school girl swoons for him and, obviously, even the stubborn Anne is not immune to his charms. 

But, without doubt, the price of admission was worth it for Ellen Denny whose Anne is at times heart-breaking and winsome who is never less than luminous and intelligent and who sings like an angel. 

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