Reviewed by Georgia Cassimatis
CINDERELLA by Rogers + Hammerstein
Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, Star City
Glass Slippers are so back!
If the media and packed houses surrounding this Tony award winning musical are anything to go by, good, old fashioned classical musical theatre will never date.
What has dated though is the age old storyline about a woman being rescued by a Prince, after living in hell as a servant to an evil stepmother and two evil step-sisters. This modern day version slightly amps up the feminism, girl power, and social justice, with clever dialogue and a couple of character changes. What did remain were the adopted American accents which prompted my date to ask if the cast were American. They weren’t.
But first, the production. Oh the production! It does not disappoint when it bills itself as ‘a feast for the senses’: the broadway style voices, dancing, captivating orchestrations, great acting, costumes screaming colour, all bringing to life the traditional Silver Age Disney production in creating the magical, otherworldly, fairytale feel Disney productions are famous for.
The flawless set design, with its opening forest scenery, the pumpkins, the costume masked balls, the diamond sparkling carriage replete with a Fairy Godmother travelling mid-air, and of course the venetian glass slippers, all worked in adding to the fairytale extravaganza.
Entertaining moments included the masked ball which was like a modern day Tinder swipe as Prince Topher, the slayer of dragons soon to be crowned King, is forced to find someone to marry in a room full of costumed women, and every character more than delivered.
The warm, principled, socially conscious Cinderella (Shubshri Kandiah) and likeable, funny Prince Topher (Ainsley Melham), both loners in their search for true love, delighted, while the fabulously narcissistic social climbing step-mother (Tina Bursill), and Lord Chancellor Sebastian (Nicholas Hammond) amused. An addition to this modern day fairytale was the revolutionist Jean-Michel (Josh Gardiner) and the two evil step-sisters weren’t that evil. Charlotte (Bianca Bruce) was too caught up in her mother’s manipulations, while Gabriella (Matilda Moran) becomes, in a plot twist, Cinderella’s co-conspirator.
My favourite was the Fairy Godmother (Silvie Paladino) who, on every magical appearance, was met with rapturous applause stealing the show, especially with the song ‘Possible/Impossible’. She came to save not only save Cinderella but the world, for it is Cinderella’s meeting with Prince Topher where she informs him about the true state of his Kingdom, of which he is unaware, and once married will ‘carpe diem’ save the day.
While the production value was high, so too were the subliminal messages: triumph over evil, Prince Topher staying true to his heart as a man, following one’s dreams and intuition, helping save and make the world a more socially conscious place, and Girl Power! Oh yes, the Girl Power; venturing forth into a world of possibility, one venetian glass slipper at a time.
Rodgers & Hammertein’s Cinderella, produced by Opera Australia and John Frost for Crossroads Live Australia, is at Sydney Lyric.