'Cindy': A Catalogue of high and low theatre
Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
The theatre season is on in earnest in Kingston, the theatre Mecca of Jamaica. And in celebration of its 50th anniversary, Campion College has joined the festival with Bob Kerr's Cindy: The Modern Jamaican Cinderella.
But while it is commendable of Campion College to use this medium as a fund-raiser for the institution and to showcase the combined talents of students, teachers and alumni, Cindy was a catalogue of mixed genres, witty-sounding names, some blatant script flaws and directorial errors.
The play, which captures some aspects of the popular children's fairy tale, Cinderella, got off to a late start last Saturday to a full house. The venue was the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. But, unlike its simple-plotted inspiration - a girl who is abused by her stepmother, and the prince who searches for her, eventually finding her - Kerr's musical has a more complex plot.
His version depicts a slice of the lives of Cindy, her stepmother (Madam Flatfoot); her father (Henry); her stepsisters (the lanky Gizada and the plump Guinep); Paul Glamour, a budding vocalist (the counterpart to the prince); Godfather (a music producer); Ginnal (an airport porter, who plays two other roles); and Gang Gang (the counterpart to Cinderella's fairy godmother).
The story has several settings: a bedroom, a dance studio, a backyard, somewhere on the road, and the airport. And the first scene begins at the airport.
All the main characters are on hand. They are introduced by Gang Gang, who had to explain their roles to the not-so-smart audience (at least, so it seemed then) and also that the play was a fairy tale (of course, there is a subtext here, too).
In what could be presumed to be the passenger-arrival area, Cindy goes to greet a brightly coloured-dressed Madam Flatfoot, who rebuffs her and then goes to greet a rather spineless Henry, who warmly greets her. After searching for them, Madam Flatfoot finally sees her two daughters, who were standing in plain sight all along. The two ugly ducklings (no kidding) run to her.
As the lengthy story progresses, with its trail of surprises, Henry discovers that his marriage to Madam Flatfoot is not legally binding, Paul does not owe Godfather any money, and, finally, Cindy and Paul fall in love. And the story ends with a rather irrelevant scene at the airport.
Cathi Levy, A Campion College alumnus, was responsible for directorial duties. Generally, her directing was fair. But blocking the large cast must have been challenging for her, so she opted to neatly arrange the young Campion student-actors in specific areas in some scenes, such as in the dance -studio scene, making space for the major parts.
Another jarring directorial decision was to have pieces of set placed beyond the front curtains. Not only did this diminish the depth of the stage, but it looked very untidy each time the objects were placed or removed.
Cindy also bore the brunt of some inconsistent acting and singing, albeit the principals seemingly enjoyed their roles.
Leading the mixed cast were teacher, Craig McNally, as the stepdaughter (no error), Guinep; and alumnus, Lawrence 'Max' Woodham as Paul Glamour. Well costumed and wearing lots of make-up, McNally was identifiable through his voice. Both he and Woodham seemed comfortable with their roles. But while McNally's diction was superb, Woodham's singing was not the best.
On the other hand, 2005 Campion graduate, Sharda Spence, as Cindy, could teach Woodham and the other soloists the art of beautiful singing. Lisa Palmer, as Gang Gang was very entertaining, for the most part. And teacher, Sheldon McDonald, was superb in playing his many roles. Patria-Kaye Aarons (a 1998 graduate) was dynamic as the cruel stepmother.
The other stepdaughter was played by Keiran King. He (no error), too, seemed to enjoy his role as the pencil-thin Gizada. But commendations must go to the Campion Band and musical director Karen Armstrong. Placed down stage right, the band, costumed in dark colours, enhanced the musical aspect of the show.
The areas of spectacle, costumes and set gave some delight to the audience - there was a motorbike, a well-constructed and decorated bedroom, and the transformation of Cindy from 'plain Jane' to the dancehall-looking diva, with wig and all.
Cindy has much to see and laugh about, and there is good singing by the chorus - but be mindful of some bawdy humour. But, remember, most of all, it is a fairy tale.