Cinderella on stage, but definitely not the panto version!

As if it's not tough enough being up there on stage performing, the students go into it all knowing they are being assessed every step of the way.

Steph Rosser on the left as Joy and Maria Hewitt on the right as Cinderella
Steph Rosser on the left as Joy and Maria Hewitt on the right as Cinderella

University of Chichester’s musical theatre students take to the Alexandra Theatre stage in Bognor Regis, complete with a live 25-piece orchestra. Last week, half the year staged Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic Carousel; this weekend, the other half of the year are staging Rodgers & Hammerstein’s considerably less-known Cinderella.

And they will know it won’t just be the audience looking at them. The production is very much part of their assessment, and they will be marked on it, says Steph Rosser who is playing Joy, one of Cinderella’s step sisters.

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“We are being marked on everything really,” says Steph, “on the performance on the night but also how engaged and focused we have been in rehearsals, just about how you should behave in the industry, that you are not just sitting looking at your phone in a corner when you are not actually in the scene, that you are listening to the director all the time because you could always learn from what they are saying to other people.”

Steph is originally from Somerset: “I just heard that Chichester was one of the best universities in the country for musical theatre. I went to college and did A levels. I did dance and drama and then I had a gap year. I was auditioning for places, and my teacher recommended Chichester.

“I am in my second year now, and it has been great. It has been a lot of hard work and time-consuming. All my friends have like one lecture a week, and we are there from eight to eight every day. It is quite full on, but I love being busy. And I definitely feel I have learnt an awful lot. I had not really done a lot of jazz before I came to university. I was more contemporary dance, and I had also done ballet. But I have learnt a lot about dance and supporting yourself and about acting, about becoming real rather than thinking ‘How is my character going to react?’ You have got to learn to respond to the other performers.”

Performing in Cinderella is part of that process: “But we are having to try to push out that this is a musical. It is not the pantomime version! Our version of Cinderella is not the typical version. We are taking it from a different angle, a bit more real and also empowering Cinderella so she is not just this girl who falls in love with a prince. It is more about Cinderella, her self-doubt whether she is worthy of going to the ball. We are trying to take the story a little deeper.”

And in this non-panto version, Steph as one of the step sisters is most definitely a step sister, not the pantomime-style ugly sister. Not that there isn’t ugliness there: “We are the step sisters, and our personalities are not always very beautiful!”

Cinderella is at The Alexandra Theatre, Regis Centre, Bognor Regis from Friday, November 25 until Sunday, November 27 with shows at 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday and shows at 2.30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets on 01243 861010.

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