Music by Richard Rogers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, New Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Sydney Lyric Theatre
Until January 22nd
Photos by Jeff Busby
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella will transport you into the well-known story of Cinderella and her glass slipper, with a few added twists that brings with it a freshness and vitality. With the two leads being superbly cast, Cinderella is a visual buffet for the eyes that will delight your young ones and bring warmth to your inner child.
The fairy-tale tropes are still solidified in this classic tale; the pumpkin, the glass slippers, the threat of midnight, a handsome Prince, and of course, magic. Rodgers and Hammerstein aim to engage a contemporary audience with a few new takes on characters. Instead of wickedly evil Stepsisters, we have a semi-nasty stepsister, Charlotte (Bianca Bruce) and a friend to Cinderella, Gabrielle (Matilda Moran). The role of the Madame, or the evil Stepmother (Tina Bursill) is still as wicked as ever, whereas the character of Sebastian (Nicholas Hammond) gives the prince his own deceptively wicked stepfather-like role to deal with. And of course, our favourite Fairy Godmother (gorgeously played by Silvie Paladino) also flies in to give the show its true magic.
As our Cinderella, or Ella, is Shubshri Kandiah who so perfectly fits into the glass slippers she may as well be a real-life Disney Princess. Kandiah’s voice is soft as silk and vibrant all at the same time. She brings a breathtaking quality to Ella that is never fragile but has an undercurrent of firmness to it. Her rounded vocals make for a gorgeous pairing with Danny Troob’s orchestrations. Kandiah is a shining north star to the entire production.
Playing opposite Kandiah is the princely Ainsley Melham as Christopher, or Topher, who again, could have been mistaken for an actual Prince. Melham’s ability as a performer holds a professionalism that can extract warmth and humour from the thinnest of scripts. Melham has a knack for cracking hilarious one liners with comic timing and truly leans into the childish goofiness that is present in Prince Topher.
Kandiah and Melham create a relationship that is entirely believable and heart-warming, despite the love-at-first-sight trope and their songs together make for a mesmerising journey through Richard Rodgers music. It’s best that your love of the Disney Cinderella songs be left at home as we’re introduced to original ones that may not be as memorable but make for delightful listening.
Feel good, mesmerising and perfect entertainment for your young dreamers these school holidays.
The plot itself is perhaps too thin at times, and if you’re looking for a high stakes show, this isn’t it. Instead, we have a message of kindness inhabited by Ella, as well as some witty moments of political critique. Older audiences may find the lack of flaws in Ella to be distancing, but younger audiences will be drawn to Ella’s vibrancy, and of course, the magic.
Anna Louizo’s set design creates the kingdom of this fairy-tale with its magical elements. Dense woods, luscious castles, and warm cottages swiftly glide in and out to transport you around the world of Cinderella. It’s William Ivey Long’s costume design that is the real star of the show however. Long’s use of colour explodes on the stage. Regal ball gowns are swept about with Josh Rhode’s soft and light choreography, whereas an abundance of pure magic is found in the swift quick changes performed before your very eyes. As the Fairy Godmother explodes from underneath the rags of disguise as the “crazy” Marie, applause erupts. Upon Ella’s second magical trip to Topher’s castle, the young audiences around me audibly gasped with delight. This is theatre magic at its finest.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella will captivate you with its decadent costuming, superb performances by its two stellar leads, and wow you with moments of pure magic. It’s feel good, mesmerising and perfect entertainment for your young dreamers these school holidays.
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Shubshri Kandiah Ella
Ainsley Melham Prince Topher
Tina Bursill Madame
Nicholas Hammond Sebastian
Silvie Paladino Marie, the Fairy Godmother
Bianca Bruce Charlotte
Matilda Moran Gabrielle
Daniel Belle Lord Pinkleton
Josh Gardiner Jean-Michel
Sarah Bourke, William Brougham, Todd Dewberry, Danielle Evrat, Luke Haberecht, Matthew Jenson, Lauren Jimmieson, Leah Lim, Kassie Martin, Rubin Matters, Joshua Russell, Greta Sherriff, Lewis Shilvock, Suzanne Steele, Tom Struik, Daniel Szesiong Todd, Alexis van Maanen, Dean Vince, Daniel Wijngaarden, Erica Wild, Emily Wood
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II
New Book Douglas Carter Beane
Original Book Oscar Hammerstein II
Set Design Anna Louizos
Costume Design William Ivey Long
Lighting Design Kenneth Posner
Sound Design Michael Waters
Orchestrations Danny Troob
Music Adaptation, Supervision and Arrangements David Chase
Choreographer Josh Rhodes
Direction Mark Brokaw