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Theatre Review (Singapore): Ashputtel – “Cinderella” with Music

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Asputtel is the latest offering from Singapore’s I Theatre, a family-focused theatrical company. This musical, about the story of Cinderella, is showing at Alliance Francaise Theatre from October 25 – November 17, 2012.

Directed by Christina Sergeant, and with a book by Dwayne Lau, Ashputtel tells the familiar tale of Cinderella, here named Ashputtel (Matilda Chua), a girl made to slave for her stepmother (Julie Wee) and stepsisters (Serena Ho and Audrey Luo) due in part to a wimpy and blindsided father (Tan Shou Chen) who only has eyes for her stepmother.

Enter a Prince (Edward Choy), parading around as a pauper, who meets Ashputtel and falls in love with her. However, before he can get her name or anything else, Ashputtel disappears. As a result the Prince throws a festival lasting a few days, to which he invites all the fair maidens in the town in an attempt to meet Ashputtel again. Ashputtel, through the help of her mother’s spirit (Adelynn Tan), manages to clean up, get new clothes, and, despite her family’s objections, make her way to the festival.

At slightly longer than an hour, Ashputtel is just the right length for children, and whilst I Theatre’s last show Arabian Nights catered to both adults and children, Ashputtel is tailored more for the young ones. The dialogue, scenes, and humour are targeted to entice and enthrall children, who will love the familiar Cinderella story told with a bit of a difference.

That’s not to say adults will be bored, as there are a few funny moments that will tickle the older ones, and the music and lyrics will appeal to both adults and children. This time around, Julian Wong helms the music department by arranging and composing all the songs. Kudos to Wong for coming up with catchy melodies and lyrics to accompany the story.

The cast sings with gusto and sincerity, although Edward Choy was on occasion drowned out by the music. Perhaps an adjustment to his microphone and/or the sound levels will solve the problem.

Julie Wee is most delightful to watch, just as she was when playing the lead in Arabian Nights. Wee has certainly grown as a performer, having come miles from her Moulmein High days. Full of expression, and with a solid singing voice, Wee plays the stepmother with just the right amount of comical farce. Even the accent and tone Wee employs – a mixture of exaggerated pronunciation and falsetto – is suitable to portray a stepmother who is evil, but comically so.

Just as wonderful to watch is the Prince’s sidekick and butler, played by Tan Shou Chen, who takes on double duty, also playing Ashputtel’s father. As the Prince’s sidekick cum aide, Tan swings comfortably between the slapstick action and the slightly serious moments when the Prince needs saving from himself.

Ashputtel is also interactive, and the kids will love connecting directly with the Prince and the butler at various times during the play.

My only gripe is that one scene has the stepsisters chopping off parts of their feet. As much as the scene is shrouded in comedy, I can’t help but wonder if such a scene is appropriate for very young children to watch. Then again it didn’t seem to faze the three-year-old beside me.

I Theatre has once again provided an interesting and exciting play that children will absolutely enjoy – and merrily laugh at all the way through to the end.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.