Review: Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Regent Theatre (VIC)

Reviewed by Astrid J

How do you breathe new life into a well-known fairy tale, especially one so familiar and loved? Hailed as “Cinderella but with a ‘modern push for independence” by director Josh Rhodes, the cast and crew retain the original magic of Cinderella while infusing it with a modern dash of justice and a few twists. 

With music from Roger and Hammerstein’s original 1957 musical, we follow Cinderella (Shubshri Kandiah) through the familiar tale – no longer a damsel in distress but instead refreshingly headstrong. She plays the maid for her stepmother and stepsisters Gabrielle & Charlotte, while dreaming of a life bigger than this. Meanwhile, Prince Topher (Ainsley Melham) is persuaded by his advisor Sebastian (Todd Mckenney) into throwing a ball, so he can find a woman to marry. The townsfolk are all invited, to the dismay of Jean-Michel (Josh Gardiner), a determined yet meek revolutionary who tries to make the townsfolk understand that the royal kingdom is taking all their resources. Cinderella of course finds a way to the ball courtesy of her fairy godmother (Silvie Paladino) and dances with the prince until the clock strikes midnight. From here, the story takes a surprising turn that brings newfound delight into the second act. 

Kandiah makes an excellent Cinderella, and her expressive yet melodious vocals have the audience rooting for her from the beginning. Melham certainly looks the part of Prince Topher, and what his line delivery occasionally misses, his spot on body language and facial expressions for the unsure, searching-for-his-place-in-life Prince more than makes up for. However, the shining star of the show is undoubtedly Paladino as Cinderella’s fairy Godmother. From the moment she ‘appears’ on stage her presence is visibly felt: she embodies the comically wise role with ease, and when her vocals blend with Kandiah’s it truly feels like magic is in the air. 

Caricature-like, yet full of heart, portrayals from Tina Bursill, Matilda Moran and Bianca Bruce (Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters respectively) add an emotional depth to a story that would otherwise feel stale and overdone and they even have a romance or two of their own! Bruce in particular stands out in the second act’s opening number, ‘Stepsister’s Lament’- a humorous romp by the women attending the ball about never being quite good enough for a man. The ensemble was also brimming with talent; their ballroom waltzes, through to mouse chase dance sequences filled the audience with wonder and laughter. 

Audiences of all ages will find something to love in this musical full of heart warming silliness and whimsy

Roger and Hammerstein’s timeless score is magically lifted off the page by the orchestra. The world of Cinderella is rendered all its glory courtesy of the costumes (William Long) and set (Anna Louizos). The stage is quite literally framed by the woods as you walk in, and an artistic decision to make the majority of the set look unrealistic (from creatures hidden in the woods to oversized props that tower over the cast) is an effective nod to the fantasy of it all. 

While there is undoubtedly a more serious element to the modernised plot focusing on the poverty and resistance of the townsfolk, the costumes are still just as fun and over the top as the original. Cinderella’s ball gown glitters and reflects the diffusing lights, and even her stepsisters and stepmother don shades of bright pink in day to day life. It is obvious that every part of the set has been carefully thought out: Cinderella’s carriage horses are made of a swirling pattern that – combined with smoke effects, the moon and her diamond adorned dress – is just dreamy. 

While on occasion the self-deprecating humour is overplayed and detracts from the fantasy of these characters, props must be given to the overall pacing of the show. There was never a dull moment, with a fine balance of emotional scenes and lightheartedness by writer Douglas Carter Beane

Set at the Regent Theatre, which practically drips with opulence (take one look at that ceiling and you’ll see) there are few better ways to end your week than to catch a viewing of Cinderella. Audiences of all ages will find something to love in this musical full of heart warming silliness and whimsy. 

Reviewer Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Photo credits: Jeff Busby and Ben Fon

Cinderella plays at Regent Theatre (VIC) until the 23rd of July, and then moves to NSW. Find tickets here. Tickets are $59-$227. 

Set Design  Anna Louizos
Costume Design William Long
Lighting Design Kenneth Posnern
Sound Design Michael Waters
Production Josh Rhodes
Choreography Emilie Renier

Cinderella Shubshri Kandiah
Prince Topher Ainsley Melham
Madame (Stepmother) Tina Bursill
Sebastian Todd Mckenney
Fairy Godmother Silvie Paladino 
Lord Pinkleton Daniel Belle
Jean Michel Josh Gardiner


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