Acle pupils ready to have a ball at Theatre Royal

It's Cinderella – but not as you know it.

Youngsters at Acle Primary School have said 'ciao' to the traditional characters in Rossini's classic opera La Cenerentola, based on the fairy tale, and given their very own storyline some street cred.

In the imagination of the year five pupils, Prince Charming becomes a swindling tax collector while Cinderella's father is an old drunk hooked on vodka – and there is certainly no happy ending as the curtain falls with Cinders still on her own and feeling deflated.

Children at neighbouring Fairhaven Primary in South Walsham and Hemblington Primary have been working on their own versions of the opera and on Sunday they will all appear in the spotlight of the Theatre Royal, in Norwich, performing in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people.

Opera singer Lynsey Docherty has been helping the youngsters develop their own take on the opera – still retaining some of Rossini's music and Italian lyrics – with the help of professional musicians and creative director Howard Moody.

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The Norfolk Schools Project is run twice a year by the theatre and its education manager Jason Raper described it as 'a fantastic opportunity for the young people'.

He said: 'It lets them stretch their singing, music and dance skills in a fun way while also encouraging their creativity and imagination, and teaches them about teamwork and working to a deadline.

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'They appreciate the opportunity to take on something as challenging as this and many always remember performing on stage in front of family and friends.'

Ms Docherty, who has travelled from her home in Bristol for the project, said youngsters at all three schools had come up with imaginative new twists – from the introduction of evil fairies to characters based on the chessboard.

She said: 'It is an incredible journey for the children. At the start they are shy and insecure and by the end they are confident, full of energy and so accomplished. It works on a social level too, integrating the class.'

The youngsters started work on the project in September and were joined by the resident musicians this week for an intensive final build-up.

Acle head teacher Paul Henery said: 'It is so exciting to see our pupils working with a real opera singer, real actors and real musicians.'

Acle pupils Tom Blagden and Maddie Simpson, both 10, said the project is 'great fun'. Maddie said: 'I am really excited about performing at the Theatre Royal, but a bit scared too. However, the people we are working with help us a lot.'

The youngsters will be given the chance to see a Glyndebourne Opera production of La Cenerentola at the Theatre Royal on Wednesday.

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