Monday, November 7, 2011

Cinderella - at the Joburg Theatre

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Christmas Pantomime Review

for the Sunday Independent


is a fun and lavish pre-Christmas Treat

Reviewed by Neal McKenna
At the Ball – Carmen Pretorius (Cinderella) & Bongi Mthombeni (Prince Charming)
Photo by Mariola Biela
Cinderella is one of my favourite pantos largely because, years ago, I played one of the ugly stepsisters. In that production, I learned two things: bustles and hoop skirts are uncomfortable and it’s really, really difficult to run in high heels. So I fully commend Robert Whitehead and Tobie Cronjé for their tenacity and fortitude in their portrayal of the hideous harridans. 
Another reason I love pantomimes is because they are silent-movie-over-the-top. It’s the only time in live theatre when overacting to the max is a good thing. And in this year’s panto production, there is a cornucopia “of a good thing.” Janice Honeyman, as usual, does an excellent job of turning total nonsense into two-and-a-half hours of great entertainment that pleases the big kids as well as the little ones. 

inderella is a story that never gets old and it’s because good triumphs over evil. The mean stepsisters get their comeuppance, Cinderella is transformed into an exquisite princess  with the help of some Fairy Godmother magic  and in the end, she finds true love! With truly spectacular sets, opulent costumes, a magnificent flying coach powered by Pegasus and lots of singing and dancing, what’s not to like? 
Carmen Pretorius is Cinderella, the put upon waif who experiences the rags to riches story in the most literal sense. Even in her scullery duds, Pretorius is gorgeous and is absolutely dazzling as Princess Crystal. She puts her beautiful voice to good use singing a mash up of pop hits like Christina Aguilera’s “I am Beautiful” right on down to moldy-oldies like “For Me and My Gal.” The latter is a duet with Sibu Radebe. 
Radebe is cast as Buttons, Cinder’s bestest pal who is secretly in love with her. The ending is not quite so happy for him since the girl of his dreams does not love him and he becomes a loose end that never gets tied up. However, throughout the show Buttons provides much of the glue that holds the story together. Still, it’s too bad this actor’s award-winning talents were not put to greater use. 
Idols alumnus, Bongi Mthombeni plays Prince Charming and is everything the role calls for. He is good looking, he sings, he dances, he even plays the piano  and he does all these things very, very well. 
Baron Hardup, father of the stepsisters and Cinderella is played by Malcolm Terrey whose sense of timing is still bang-on. He gets many a laugh from what normally would be throw-away lines. 
Tobie Cronjé, as tall and skinny stepsister, Fanny Flatulina, is good for dozens of belly laughs as he/she vies for the affections of Prince Charming. And his delivery of double entendre lines is superb.   
Robert Whitehead’s Flossie Flemerina, the other stepsister, engages in more physical comedy. His character is a winsome lass of considerable girth who does whatever it takes to land her man  even if that includes subterfuge. In the shoe fitting scene, she arrives with a third leg secreted under her skirt and almost nabs the prince. 
Anna-Mart van der Merwe’s rendition of the Fairy Godmother can only be described as unique since she seems to be an Afrikaans-speaking Jewish mama. Oy vay! When she was speaking Afrikaans, I knew what it was  a language I didn’t understand. But when she spoke English, it still sounded like Afrikaans! Actually, it didn’t matter, she got her message across and she was hilarious. 
In this production, Jaco van Rensburg does double duty as the show’s choreographer and also appears on stage as Donkey Houtie, Buttons’ faithful steed. As usual, he proves himself to be an excellent dancer and a darn-good singer too. 
Now, we get to the second bananas. Handsome Stephen Jubber is Dandini, PC’s bodyguard and confidant. For a while, he passes himself off as the prince in an effort to win the heart of a special lady. In all, the role is a good showcase of his singing and dancing talents. 
Tammi Meyer, as Lady Ginjah, plays Cinderella’s Blackberry-toting best friend. She gets a few good zingers to deliver and a couple of duets to show off her considerable vocal skills. I predict she will be stepping into the centre of the spotlight soon. 
Rounding out the company, the supporting roles in this year’s panto are played by a truly sterling company of South African actors  Charles Bouguenon; Zeena Edwards; Nurit Michele Graff; Reg Hart; Bruce J. Little; Jodie Renouf; Claire Scheepers; Uber Seleme; Dionne Song; Lebo Toko; Marno van der Merwe and Ziyanda Yako. 
Beyond this, there is one more special surprise which I am not going to tell you about, but you’ll know what it is when you see it. Book your tickets now! Cinderella plays on Joburg Theatre’s Mandela Stage through December 30th 2011.

Rindercella and the Prandsome Hince 

Once upon a time in a coreign fountry

there was a geautiful birl, whose name was Rindercella. And Rindercella had a mugly other  and two sisty uglers. Also in this coreign fountry there was a prandsome hince and the prandsome hince was going to have a bancy fall. 

Rindercella's mugly other and her two sisty uglers went out and bought dancy fresses for the bancy fall but poor Rindercella couldn't go because she had nothing but rirty dags. 

So on the night of the bancy fall, Rindercella's mugly other and her two sisty uglers put on their dancy fresses and went to the bancy fall. And since poor Rindercella couldn't go, she cat down and sried.

Suddenly, her gairy fodmother appeared

before her and touched her with her wagic mond and turned her into a peautiful brincess and then gave her a kig boach

and hix sorces so Rindercella could go to the bancy fall.

So off went Rindercella. When she got to the bancy fall the prandsome hince met her at the door. He had watched her come up

in her kig boach and hix sorses from a widden hindow. Rindercella and the prandsome hince danced all night long and

the prandsome hince lell in fove with Rindercella.

When the prandsome hince was just about to quop the prestion, Rindercella heard the moke of stridnight so she turned, straced down the rairs and when she got to the stottom blep she slopped her dripper.

The next day the prandsome hince went all over his coreign fountry looking for the geautiful birl who had slopped her dripper.

When he got to Rindercella's house he tried it on her mugly other, but it fidnt dit!

He tried it on her two sisty uglers but it fidnt dit. And he tried it on Rindercella

and it fid dit! So they were mappily harried and lived mappily ever hafter.

Ehe Tend!

Click here to hear this story performed 

by the late Archie Campbell

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Image via Suffering Fools Badly


The shoe fitting scene – (L-R) 
Robert Whitehead, Tobie Cronje, Malcolm Terry, Carmen Pretorius & Bongi Mthombeni

Photo by Mariola Biel

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