Review by Carly Fisher
The story of Cinderella is one that generations worth of fairytale lovers know and connect with and, though there have been many interpretations of this great fable, the ideas that true love trumps circumstance, and that a good pair of shoes can change your life, have resonated through the ages.
Rodgers and Hammerstein first shared their interpretation of Cinderella in 1957 in a written for TV special. It was remade, again for TV, in 1965 and 1997 but it was not until 2013 that the R&H classic finally hit Broadway…and not till 2022 that us Aussie audiences got to indulge in the magic too. It’s been quite a wait but a good Princess story will never go out of style and I think Sydney audiences are in for a treat, particularly those who have young patrons to accompany them into the enchanted woods and magical kingdom currently taking residence at the Lyric Theatre.
Shubshri Kandiah plays the titular role and is quickly solidifying herself as Australia’s resident Princess having played Jasmine, now as Cinderella and next as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Whilst it is wonderful to see a fresh and talented face in all of these roles like Kandiah, this particular show didn’t really allow her to sparkle in my opinion. Both Kandiah and Ainsley Melham as Prince Topher sing through the show beautifully but together the two don’t have much chemistry and this seemed a big miss for the show…and quite surprising considering their previous work together in Aladdin.
Tina Bursill is a great addition to the cast as Madame, or Cinderella’s evil stepmother. She plays the role with a perfect shrill and yet offers enough balance that she is likeable despite her cruelty. As her daughters, Bianca Bruce as Charlotte and Matilda Moran as Gabrielle are two of the best in the large Ensemble. Moran especially takes a sophisticated approach, balancing comedic timing and genuine character growth perfectly.
Daniel Belle as Lord Pinkleton unquestionably steals the show vocally. Having his Operatic voice booming through many of the songs was a true joy and I found myself waiting and hoping for more from Belle throughout.
Speaking of Opera, Silvie Paladino plays Marie, or Cinderella’s fairy godmother, and of course, her songs are beautifully executed - whether with two feet on the ground, flying high above the stage or within a cloud of smoke. Paladino was a perfect choice for the role.
The Ensemble is strong and very hard working - there are large dance numbers, hundreds of costumes, many a moving set piece, and of course, the incredible harmonies throughout a Rodgers and Hammerstein show. I say this with many Australian musicals that I see - it is a true testament to the great talent within our industry that every single show you see on an Aussie stage, the Ensemble is world class - brilliant vocalists and some of the world’s best dancers.
I first saw this production nearly 10 years ago on Broadway, so I went in with some expectations - I remember spellbindingly smooth costume changes and unreal ‘magic’ that brought the beloved fairytale to life. Unfortunately, in the near 10 years since, with so much technology and advancements in stagecraft, the field has elevated substantially and Cinderella no longer quite cuts it, especially when compared to shows like Frozen and Harry Potter. This is most noticeably true in the famous pumpkin transformation - a heavy reliance on smoke machines is supposed to cover the clunky transitions but sadly, too much is too obvious and that feeling of bewilderment is not achieved.
As in many of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s works, the musical is filled to the brim with songs and many are lengthy - in this show, some stand out and really stay in your head after the show, and others tend to feel quite similar to others in the show. That said, it will be a good few days before Impossible/It’s Possible will be out of my head!
Ultimately, it is a very pretty show that is definitely entertaining but I think that this is one that I would recommend for those who have young patrons to take with them more than anything. And if you are starting to think about the school holidays already, I’d buy up your tickets now for an absolutely magical afternoon or evening of theatre that is great for kids.
I really wanted to absolutely love this one but unfortunately felt it hadn’t aged well and as such, I left slightly disappointed. Hasn’t changed my excitement for Beauty and the Beast next year though! I look forward to seeing Kandiah in another wonderful gold gown then!!
Image Credit: Jeff Busby