Hip-hop Cinderella comes out dancing

The Fresh Funk ensemble. Photo: Martin Allman.

Musical theater / “The Glass Slipper”, Fresh Funk. At Erindale Theater, June 19. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.

SUNDAY evening saw Erindale theater come alive with Fresh Funk’s epic end-of-semester production of “The Glass Slipper”.

The showcase, running for around 135 minutes including a short interval, saw some 250 dancers perform hip-hop routines to convey a modern take on the Cinderella fairytale.

Fresh Funk’s director and tutor, Leena Wall, has based “The Glass Slipper” on the 2021 musical “Cinderella”, with the immediately recognizable voice of Billy Porter (Fab G the fairy godmother, in the movie), along with Camilla Cabello and Pierce Brosnan providing the soundbites and songs for Fresh Funk’s production, as well as many more contemporary songs.

Between paying homage to the original Cinderella storyline and this version, it is caught between a dance concert and a narrative. Given here that Ella has the ambition of being a seamstress and starting her own business, not playing handbag to a Prince, when Queen Tatiana wants a designer and stylist to travel with her, Ella with the Prince in tow, take up the offer.

Bowing to the Prince. Photo: Martin Ollman.

It is impossible to ignore the glaring resemblance to Meghan and Harry ditching the Royals to pursue their own ambitions and wishes in America.

The projected images used throughout, by Luke Marriott Visuals and Liam Smith are of villages and Cinderella’s stone-floor basement, but with this style of dance and the street costuming, it creates a conflict in cohesiveness.

Chanelle Smith in the role of Ella presents a likeable and bubbly persona and her co-stars, the Prince and King (performers listed in the program in groups rather than individual roles), are both lovely dancers and a delight to watch – the Prince with a smooth, casual, lyrical style and the King expressive and with a groove that is hard to look away from.

The costumes consisted mostly of black streetwear tracks, tights, with colored T-shirts. During the ball, the mix of costumes with a foot in both traditional and modern camps was a distraction from the choreography and some of Ella’s dancing was lost under the classic voluminous ball gown.

The lyrical dance number in the style of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” when Ella dances with the Prince saw the ensemble in appropriate wardrobe for the dance but not for the scene. More props and sparkle for the Fab G and more blingy costumes and props for “I don’t wanna show off” and “Material Girl” would have been great to enhance the impact of the numbers.

But the “town criers” looked striking in black ensembles with official decoration on their shirts. “Somebody to Love” was a great number, with striking choreography, clever integration of the “changing of guard” scene and the addition of silver arm guards was an effective touch. Their dances were presented in a format reminiscent of Janet and Michael Jackson dances.

The lighting by Sidestage was moody and effective in numbers including “That’s just how I Feel” and “Last Night” but could have been used to more effectively delineate the settings and to make the ball more glamorous, as well as lighting the back row of dancers.

The choreography in “Schoolin’ Life” was particularly enjoyable and the lyrical numbers, including a Dermot Kennedy track were appealing. “Talk to Me” was a pretty piece as was “Lifetime”, where the costumes came together well.

The modern soundtrack makes the performance enjoyable and accessible to most audience members, especially the siblings and friends of the performers.

It was delightful watching the youngest members of the crew perform to cheers and raucous applause of the audience. The choreographers do a commendable job in keeping the hip-hop dance styles family-suitable.

Fresh Funk is nurturing some wonderful talent and “The Glass Slipper” also gives a glimpse of the future stars of the dance school. Wall and the Fresh Funk crew have pulled off a mammoth show, which incorporates all levels of juniors, adults and masters – all of whom do a remarkable job of learning so much choreography, maintaining the energy for the length of the performance, and giving a tightly presented, polished performance. They packed the stage to the brim for a joyful finale, met with cheers from a full house.

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