Theatre | Males step up for Cinderella | Ken Longworth

TALENTED: Sam Lewis, as stepsister Portia, Ella Mackenzie, who plays the stepmother and Liam Patey-Dennis, as stepsister Joy. Photo: Ben Barnett
TALENTED: Sam Lewis, as stepsister Portia, Ella Mackenzie, who plays the stepmother and Liam Patey-Dennis, as stepsister Joy. Photo: Ben Barnett

WHEN Newcastle’s Young People’s Theatre held an information night for its staging of a junior version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella, one participant asked if the title character’s stepsisters could be played by males.

And the subsequent impressive auditions of two teenage boys led to them being chosen to be the stepsisters in one of the two 35-member casts that will alternate in the season that begins on September 25. 

The stepsisters are often played by males, especially in pantomime versions of the story. Liam Patey-Dennis is one of the stepsisters, Joy, whose name belies her sourpuss nature, and Sam Lewis is the other one, Portia, with the actor seeing her as more dimwitted than Joy.

The production’s director, Joanna Andrew, notes that Cinderella in this version is very different to the character in most other stagings. “She is very driven and cheeky,” she said.

The renowned musical theatre team, composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, developed Cinderella as a TV musical, which starred Julie Andrews as the title character when televised in 1957 and attracted a then-record audience. A stage adaptation opened in London the next year.

YPT is staging a recent G2K (Getting to Know) adaptation of the show for under-18 performers, which includes all the show’s songs but has shortened the storyline while giving youngsters the chance to develop their skills.

Liam Patey-Dennis and Sam Lewis are certainly doing that, with Sam noting that “Everything Portia and Joy do is over the top”. And the pair get to show the sisters’ fury in a song called Stepsisters’ Lament, when they see Cinderella, who is unrecognisable to them in the elegant gown given to her by the pragmatic Godmother, arm-in-arm with the Prince after they dance together at the story’s royal ball.

Sophie Carson, who is one of the show’s Stepmothers, sees her character as “not evil – just mean”. “Deep down Cinderella is the daughter she wanted,” she said.

“She is jealous of her and that’s why she mistreats her.”

The morning after the ball, Cinderella offers a pretence of having been there in the song A Lovely Night, and she and the Stepmother end up dancing amusingly together.  

Director Joanna Andrew heads a staging team, which includes Maddie Watts as musical director and Lizzy Lindus as choreographer. 

Cinderella is being staged at YPT’s Theatre in Lindsay St, Hamilton, with 11am shows daily from Monday, September 25, to Friday, September 29, a 7pm official opening on  September 27, and a mix of 2pm and 7pm Saturday shows and 2pm Sunday shows from September 30 to October 28. Details at ypt.org.au.