It’s been 18 long months since most of us sat in a theatre. After having to cancel the annual Pantomime last year, I had been holding my breath for a while, hoping against hope that this year it would happen, and sure enough, executive producer Bernard Jay is thrilled that Janice Honeyman’s Cinderella is now on the Nelson Mandela Stage, with all its carefully monitored Covid regulations in place!
Returning to the Joburg Theatre yesterday, seeing it back in all its festive regalia, with the Christmas tree standing there in the centre of the foyer made me feel that maybe, just maybe everything was going to be alright. I had this strange feeling that I’d been there only just a minute ago, combined with the awareness that I knew it had, in actual fact, been a very long time – the longest, in fact, that I’d every been away from a place that has always felt like a home away from home!
That welcome table where we used to collect our tickets for a media opening had been replaced by that presence we’ve all come to know (but not necessarily love) – the “screening”: register, sanitize, have your temperature taken! Our tickets had all been sent to us electronically prior to the show to avoid the usual congregating that used to happen at the collection area. And when we ventured upstairs, we each received bottles of water and vouchers for individual snack boxes that would be handed out after the show, to replace the opening night cast/media party that we used to enjoy. It was quite evident that every single Covid protocol was taken care of. No chances were being taken, right down to the individually plastic zip-locked programmes we found on our seats! The care taken in every detail was impressive, to say the least.
As we waited for the show to start, it was evident that excitement was in the air, and as the lights dimmed and those first intro chords started up, I felt goosebumps on my arms! By the time the cast burst onto stage in full energetic technicolour, I was crying happy tears, quite overwhelmed with the sheer reality of it all! And boy, is it REAL! In typical Panto style, it’s bold and in your face and it doesn’t hold back on delivery!
Without any spoilers, let’s unpack what’s on offer here … Once upon a time, a girl named Cinderella lived with her two stepsisters and her lovely, but rather intimidated father. Kiruna-Lind Devar plays Cinderella and for years now I’ve told anyone who’ll listen that this accomplished young performer is a triple-threat of note. But now that she’s matured and honed her talents, she’s a triple-threat on steroids! She’s an absolute pleasure to watch as she seemingly glides across the stage and sings with the voice of an angel!
Playing the ‘ugly’ stepsisters with impeccable comic timing are Desmond Dube and Ben Voss. Their shenanigans had the audience in fits of laughter, and their seemingly effortless ability to bounce their hilarious lines (and rather large behinds) off each other hold huge appeal for younger audience members.
Stalwart of the SA acting community, Graham Hopkins plays an endearing, yet bumbling father to the three girls. He does so with aplomb and my own daughter could relate to him 100% as a father who never seems to know what’s going on in his own home as it’s all just a bit beyond him! She found him most entertaining!
Bongi Mthombeni gives an incredibly powerful, moving performance as Buttons. He shows just how versatile he is with his ability to both move the audience almost to tears and also to show his more playful side with the greatest of ease. Justin Swartz as his Donkey sidekick is just marvelous!
Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri is a dynamic and enthusiastic Dandini, wingman to Prince Charming, played by a dazzling Kyle Grant who truly does look as one would imagine the character should! In all other aspects, he doesn’t disappoint – he has the strong voice of a leading man, and shows all the dramatic angst necessary, especially when he thinks he’s lost the girl of his dreams!
One cannot review this production of Cinderella without making mention of the ‘set’ – well actually there is no set! Award winning creative director Andrew Timm has created a high-tech, 21st century innovation of spectacular special effects. He’s combined the live performers with projections and 3D graphics on over 500 LED screens, using hologram effects, giant props, magic techniques and pyrotechnics that have magically brought this fairy tale to life and create a real-life fantasy. It’s as if the back-drop is actually a character all on its own and it’s truly breath-taking!
Every element of this production ticks all the boxes for great entertainment. Nicol Sheraton has kept the choreography snappy and sleek. Dale-Ray Scheepers, as both music arranger and musical director ensures that audiences will be singing along to edgy, familiar tunes and Bronwen Lovegrove has co-ordinated a wardrobe that is eye-catching, bold and bright.
In good old panto style everyone will be well entertained, but there’s that sharp comedic element that will fly right over the kids’ heads and appeal to all the teens and adults in the room (the kids will laugh along too though, because everyone else is!). And as always, Janice Honeyman is spot on with what’s relevant and current, whether it’s politics, music, quips and quirks – oh, and just a heads-up, maybe brush up on your TikTok trends!!
Tickets for Cinderella are now on sale from R290 from www.joburgtheatre.com or by calling 0861 670 670. There are fantastic group, family and senior citizen discounts available too! The show is on until 24 December 2021.