Sydney Lyric Theatre.
29 October 2022.
Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s Cinderella delivers the magic and sparkle that fairy tales are made of, with a modern twist. If you’re a fan of this enduring classic fable, get ready to be surprised by this feel-good Tony Award-winning Broadway musical now on at the Sydney Lyric Theatre.
Cinderella may be a name that you are familiar with, but in the new book by Douglas Carter Beane from which this musical is based, she is aptly known as ‘Ella’. Ella (Shubshri Kandiah) is a young, kind-hearted girl who is forced to serve the demands of her tyrannical stepmother, who is only concerned with the wealth gained from Ella’s father and the happiness of her two daughters, Gabrielle (Matilda Moran) and Charlotte (Bianca Bruce). While this storyline remains true of the classic, there is a twist!
Prince Christopher, known as ‘Topher’ (Ainsley Melham) is the handsome prince who has inherited the kingdom from his late parents and is a proud slayer of dragons and mythical creatures just like the fairy tale. He, however, struggles to find his own identity and naively allows Lord Chancellor, Sebastian (Nicholas Hammond), to decide what is best for the kingdom. He is shielded, clueless and unaware of the inequality in his kingdom until he finds his true love Ella, who opens his eyes. She fell in love with Topher from the moment she met him, giving him water from a well in the forest. With the help of Marie (Silvie Paladino), who is Ella’s fairy godmother, Ella transforms into a beautiful princess who not only attends the Prince’s ball but also the Prince’s banquet to meet her true love. Although he did not recognise who she was at first, he knew she was the one for him and it was her glass slipper which helped bring them together, and her stance for social justice that set Topher on a new course to right the wrongs done to the people in his kingdom.
A new sub-plot in this story is yet another twist on the classic. A new character, Jean-Michael (Josh Gardiner), is an activist for the rights of the people in the kingdom and wins the heart of Ella’s stepsister Gabrielle. Gabrielle is also not a mean stepsister but one who is sympathetic toward Ella as she defies her mother to be with Jean-Michael, the man she falls in love with.
With music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, there is much to love about these enduring songs including ‘In My Own Little Corner,’ exquisitely performed by Kandiah as Ella dreams of adventure; ‘Impossible/It’s Possible,’ an uplifting and magical duet with Kandiah and Paladino as Ella is transformed for the ball; and ‘Ten Minutes Ago,’ the romantic duet with Kandiah and Melham where Ella and Prince Topher meet at the ball. All performed with a live orchestra.
Paladino as the fairy godmother is a highlight of this production. With warmth and beauty, she soared to new heights and her magical vocals followed. Kandiah is also outstanding as this modern Cinderella with amazing vocals and overall strong performance.
With gorgeous costumes by William Ivey Long, including the big and vibrant ballroom gowns, it’s a wonderful visual feast. The highlight is Ella’s spectacular glittering glass shoes that are truly something special and were the envy of all the ladies in the audience. The set designs by Anna Louizos are enchanting from the ethereal forest to the beautiful horse drawn carriage. There was also the unexpected and cute fox and racoon puppets hidden in the trees that added to the whimsy and fantasy of this production.
The choreography by Josh Rhodes is exquisite as well as technical and performed effortlessly by the ensemble cast. From lively folk dancing to the carefully orchestrated masquerade ball with a delightful waltz that is filled with twirls and superb partner lifts, the ensemble cast created so many memorable dance moments throughout the production. One in particular is when the fox and the racoon puppets came to life. With dramatic acrobatic flips, turns and jumps it was a wonderfully energetic dance.
This production of Cinderella brings the fairy tale to the 21st century while still retaining the essence of the storyline. It’s a fun, light-hearted musical that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is at the Sydney Lyric Theatre until 29 January 2023. For more information, visit www.cinderellamusical.com.au.
By Nicole Saleh of Dance Informa.