Review by Stephanie Lee
Beautiful imagery and a sense of magic lie at the heart of this production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The story is based on the classic tale of Cinderella, a kind-hearted girl who is mistreated by her stepmother after her father’s death and has her dream of dancing with the prince at the ball come true when her fairy godmother appears to grant her wish. However, this musical adaptation feels a lot more contemporary with class issues sprinkled throughout and a much kinder stepsister who assists Cinderella in attempting to win over the prince. The prince’s comedic, over the top nature also is very reminiscent of Sondheim’s Into the Woods Cinderella’s prince except that he seems kinder and more genuine. These small little variations from the more traditional way that the story of Cinderella is usually told, gives the production quite a charming and comedic feel.
Every element of the production truly works together to create an enchanting performance, with gorgeous costumes (William Ivey Long) and smooth transitions immersing the audience in a fantastical world. The dress transformations are truly stunning and magical in a very nostalgic way, both seemingly effortless and mesmerising. It never feels like the production tries to hide the stage magic in new innovative way but reveals in the theatrical beauty of old tricks and the nostalgia of the story which many of the audience would have grown up with or be in the process of growing up with.
Similarly, the set (Anna Louizos) and lighting (Kenneth Posner and Trudy Dalgleish) work extremely well together to magically transform the background scenery. The lighting in particular is absolutely gorgeous in its creation of sky gradients, adding a breathtaking quality to the staging. The set’s forest aesthetic remains present throughout the whole piece, reflecting the fantasy of the tale and indulging in the frequent pop-culture depictions of Cinderella as being a girl at one with the nature around her.
Perhaps most surprising is the humour of the show, which shines through brilliantly in this staging of the musical. As a result, a lot of the often side-lines characters really steal the show which also is likely due to the well-chosen cast who deliver captivating performances.
Shubshri Kandiah as Cinderella brings a sweetness to the role, winning over the hearts of the audience, while Ainsley Melham as the Topher (the prince) adds a charming goofiness to the character making the audience laugh along the entire time. Tina Bursill as the stepmother and Todd McKenney as Sebastian (the prince’s advisor) are the villains of the piece, however, in their self-aware, comedic presentations of the characters have the audience fall in love with them regardless of their antagonistic presence in the story.
The unexpected star of the show is Silvie Paladino as Marie (the fairy godmother), who is magical and vocally soars in the role. I found myself relishing in her moments on the stage and missed her presence once she left Cinderella transformed ready to attend the ball. Silvie manages to strike a wonderful balance between the comedy of Marie and heart, also nailing the big belting numbers.
Overall, the ensemble is incredibly talented, especially in the execution of choreography. Every scene is well-supported by the ensemble’s harmonies and characterisation of the townspeople. In particular, The Prince is Giving a Ball creates a wonderful flurry of music and dancing, with the ensemble all filling the space to give the scene infectious energy and life. The cast really do work together to give the production a delightful quality, assisted by clear, assured direction and visually arresting choreography that allows their talent to shine.
This Melbourne production of Cinderella is certainly a wonderful production that indulges in the nostalgia of the classic fairy-tale and is a fantastic, magical night out at the theatre to escape reality for a moment.
Image Credit: Jeff Busby