Cinderella's dumber little sister

Cinderella Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
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The Independent Culture
The best - or worst - thing about Music Theatre London's travesty of Rossini's Cinderella is its mindlessness. Not an evening for those sensitive to sex and gender politics, but then opera never was. In the programme there's an unfunny "Essential Guide to the Royal Marriage" aimed, without reference to the present, merely at those determined to have a good time, yet there's no explanation of how Tony Britten has adapted the score, which shows low expectations of the audience.

Britten has in fact arranged it for an eight-piece band (keeping the all-important piccolo), while the sisters are taken by a light, high tenor (Simon Butteriss) and a baritonish singing actor (William Relton) instead of Rossini's soprano and mezzo. The Prince is switched, panto-style, from a tenor to Elena Ferrari's coloratura soprano. She doesn't show off her legs - whereas Simon Butteriss shows off not just his legs but a pretty neat bum - and in a suit she acts like nothing so much as a bull dyke, though I think that's unintentional. Dandini (Harry Burton, who with his moustache and kilt would hardly be safe on the streets) affects a lisp when he's pretending to be the Prince and is described by Don Magnifico (Tim Hardy) as a pansy - which at leastseems the sort of thing Don Magnifico might say. The courtiers are all Barbour jackets and green wellies.

The translation by Tony Britten and Nicholas Broadhurst works very well on a comic level, though it has the effect of satirising Rossini's formulaic coloratura. At the same time, the vocal extravagances seem like a natural extension of the comedy, and when the Prince takes a high note, his courtiers wince.

At first, Jan Hartley's Cinderella sounded no better equipped than an actress from musical comedy, yet later she warmed to her part and sang all the notes. So did Elena Ferrari, and the others made robust efforts without inflicting much damage. What car

r ies it all is the energy. The acting is pretty-well panto level and the sets crude, but Rossini's exuberance and wit are fully evident and the chances are this version will give you an appetite for the real thing, which - emphatically - is in Italian.