|Ainsley Melham, Shubshri Kandiah, and ensemble | Photo Credit: Ben Fon|
One of the things that I enjoyed much about visiting the city of Naarm (Melbourne) is the privilege to enjoy arts and entertainment, my phone was on silent mode and just had my full attention on the whole 2-hour performance.
I was very excited to secure our tickets to attend one of Disney’s greatest musicals which give us magic for just a night.
There could surely be no finer place to stage Opera Australia’s Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella than Melbourne’s Regent Theatre, with its glittering chandeliers, velvet curtains, and beautiful proscenium arch. It’s a venue worthy of the royal status to which our protagonist, Cinderella, aspires.
I’ve watched several versions of the Cinderella movie, except the 1957 original version with Julie Andrews as Cinderella. But the plot of these movies is all the same, except this theatrical musical version with new twists, and turns with a hint of modernity thanks to writer Douglas Carter Beane.
Pumpkin-style coaches and glass slippers share the stage with social justice, equality, and kindness, the traditional and the radical neatly balanced and deftly blended into a gently persuasive whole.
|Shubshri Kandiah, Tina Bursill, Matilda Moran, and Bianca Bruce | Photo credit: Jeff Busby|
The Australian cast and ensemble are impeccable, to the point where it’s difficult to justify singling out an individual for special mention – although Shubshri Kandiah as Ella just noses ahead of the rest of her co-stars for the way she manages her demanding lead role. It’s hard to recall a scene she’s not in, yet she does it all with such apparent ease.
|Silvie Paladino and Shubshri Kandiah | Photo Credit: Ben Fon|
They’re an energetic and talented bunch, featuring performers new and experienced. Ainsley Melham’s silky voice and boyish charm are perfectly suited to his role of Prince Topher, and his chemistry with Shubshri is great. Todd McKenny as Sebastian (Prince Topher’s advisor) provided plenty of laughs with his perfectly delivered lines. I used to dislike the stepsisters back in my childhood days, however, the contemporary stepsisters (Charlotte played by Bianca Bruce and Gabrielle played by Matilda Moran) also get a decent slice of the humor to showcase which they uplifted my hope.
Tina Bursill (as Madame) and Silvie Paladino (Marie/the Fairy Godmother) show they’re powerhouses with energy to burn as they sing, dance, act, and – in Silvie’s case – literally fly around the stage.
Visually, the show borders on being overwhelming. The costumes are elaborate, the sets are sumptuous, and the dancing and acrobatics seem non-stop. There are numerous moments that live up to the title ‘breathtaking’, such as Cinderella’s ballgown reveal, and Marie’s transformation into the Fairy Godmother. They’re genuine ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moments (or even don’t blink and you’ll still miss it, they’re that cleverly executed!). Costume Designer William Ivey Long and his team made all the magic possible.
The fact it was penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein definitely gives this production of Cinderella a leg-up as it harks back to the golden era of musical theatre but, most importantly, the new writing lends it themes that feel relevant to today. For instance, would you expect the first stepsister is a bookworm?
This version of Cinderella still hones in on the premise of kindness, but does so by slipping in an unexpected dose of politics, with the concept of ‘every voice heard’. There’s also a hint of feminism and the refrain of possibility and change that seemed to match the fresh and optimistic feeling currently floating around Melbourne.
The standing ovation given freely by the audience to the cast was well deserved. It’s a glittering musical that waved its wand and created magic for all ages.
Be sure to arrive early as there’s a stunning Cinderella-inspired carriage in the foyer of Melbourne’s Regent Theatre, the perfect place to take a photo before the show.
Cinderella may not have the sexy edge of its current local competitors, but it fittingly serves its place as a delectable treat for lovers of traditional musical theatre.
Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Melbourne) runs until 22 July 2022.
Review: 4.5-stars out of 5