The story of Cinderella will always be a time honoured classic. In times of great challenges I believe that most individuals are constantly searching for opportunities to be transcended into fairytales in order to be reminded that good can conquer evil, love is everlasting and maybe we too can have our happily ever after. Last Thursday, October 1, 2015 at Queen’s Hall I had the opportunity to witness the Baggasse Company’s version of Cinderella: The Trinidad and Tobago Musical, written and directed by Christine Johnston with Aaron Schneider as Co-Director. The auditorium was filled with great anticipation as we opened our minds to the new twists to this classic.
There were some wonderful highlights within the show. I believe that the infusion of the Trinbagonian heritage, music, language was phenomenal. One of the goals of the Directors was to capture the country’s unique culture and that was accomplished.
Another highlight came from the exuberance of the Griot- the Narrator (Tishanna Williams) whose performance I could sum up on one word…FANTASTIC! Oral Tradition is such a significant aspect of the Caribbean culture and Williams embodied the wise storyteller. However, at the end of the show I wondered how much is too much narration? I believe that having a narrator explain practically all the scenes in such a popular story was unnecessary. It partly took away from me having my own responses to what was being presented on stage since preconceived notions were injected beforehand.
Nevertheless, my favourite performance of the night came from Priscilla (Leslie-Ann Lavine). Lavine was simply stellar and had such a commanding stage presence from the very beginning to the end which was captivating. Her performance was testimony to her years of experience. It is usually quite difficult to like a villain but I loved Lavine.
Commendable performances came from Cinderella (Arielle Cowie) who brought some subtlety in a sea of larger than life character and had a lovely voice. Also, the Royal Family; Cacique (Mansergh ‘Kareem’ Griffith), Cacica (Gabrille de la Rosa) and Prince Marcel (Stephen Hadeed Jr.) who exuded those regal characteristics. Finally, Lionel (Kyle Richardson) who portrayed the over the top, flamboyant, privileged servant. Richardson provided great comedic relief and had wonderful chemistry with Hadeed Jr.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were aspects of show that were questionable. In creating a fairytale experience, the set and costumes are crucial to the believability of the story. I found the set to be underwhelming and failed to fully capture the opulence of the wealthy plantation owner or the Royal Family. The costuming left a bit to be desired also. I would have liked more of the creole Trinbagonian Plantation aesthetic.
Breaking the fourth wall could be an excellent technique to gain the involvement of the audience and it worked well for the Narrator and Lionel. However, I felt like there were moments when the technique was awkward and ineffective when employed by other members of the cast. There were too many characters who were not fully immersed in their roles as they made their focus the breaking of that fourth wall.
Finally, though there were good solo singing performances like that of Priscilla (Leslie-Ann Lavine), The Cacica (Gabrille de la Rosa) and Lionel (Kyle Richardson), the choral work could have been stronger. In this regard I saw the inexperience of the supporting cast who were newcomers to the stage. Even though I appreciate the courage of these fledging performers, it was a musical and I expected that there should be good singing from ALL of the cast.
In the final analysis, the musical embodied the great vibrancy of the Trinbagonian culture. It reminded us that we should always follow our hearts and trust that true love will be the outcome. Cinderella: The Trinidad and Tobago Musical, was a wonderful end to the Baggasse Company’s hiatus and I look forward to their work in the future. BEST OF LUCK!
Cinderella: The Trinidad and Tobago Musical continues at Naparima Bowl 28-31 October 2015 with school shows at 9:30a.m. on Oct. 28, 29 & 30, and for the general public at 7:30p.m. on Oct. 30 & 31.