Wonder came to mind as you waltzed to your seat for the glorious new production of Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre in Brisbane. The classic fairy-tale story with an updated twist was brought to life before the eager audience’s eyes. The characters full of life, sets and props that will blow you away and music that takes you to another world was as perfect as the shoe fits.
Shubshuri Kandiah was the most wonderful performer to play the timeless role of Cinderella (Ella). Her performance was incredibly graceful, real, sarcastic, and enchanting. Her interactions with her Stepsisters and Stepmother were unique and frightening. Shubshuri lit up as she formed a beautiful friendship with her Stepsister Gabrielle (played by Matilda Moran) as they helped each other achieve their desires in ‘A lovely night (reprise)’. Her voice soared through the theatre, and she gave her whole heart to the production, especially in the number ‘In my own little corner’ and as she connected with the Prince in ‘Loneliness of Evening.’
Ainsley Melham wasn’t your typical Prince Charming. He played Prince Topher brilliantly and portrayed the character in a naïve, chivalrous, and oblivious but redeeming way. Ainsley’s chemistry with Shubshuri was undeniable as they gravitated towards the essence of the iconic fairy-tale royals. The most romantic part of the show where the audience audibly gasped was when Ella arrived at Topher’s ball in the incredible angelic white gown, and they waltzed and sung the gorgeous song ’10 minutes ago.’ The two performers make the audience swoon and give their whole soul to the number and the their character’s love begins to blossom.
This version of the well-known story geared towards how the Prince used his power and nobility to make the Kingdom more livable for the lower and middle class. Ainsley’s desire to act when he heard from Ella how the poor were being treated made the characters and tale itself more relatable.
The infamous Fairy Godmother was played by the talented Australian music legend, Silvie Paladino. Silvie embodied Marie initially as a sort-of gypsy woman and then magically transfigured in an incredible costume change, to the mystical Fairy Godmother. Silvie highlighted her glorious voice and gave a stellar performance of ‘There’s Music in you.’ Shubshuri and Silvie had a wonderful rapport and illustrated that connection in the show-stopping musical number ‘Impossible/Its Possible.’ This song was wondrous as they met each other with fresh eyes when Marie proved it is possible to ‘dream a wish her heart makes’ for lack of better words.
The highly-anticipated ‘rags to riches’ costume change for Ella is revealed, don’t blink or you’ll miss it. She found herself suddenly in an incredible dreamed up carriage, complete with footmen created from the playful street racoon and fox (Lewis Shilvock and William Broughham) and silver sparkly horses. Silvie completed the number as she flew high above the stage and the audience was wowed into applause.
The evil stepmother Madame was possessed by Debora Krizak. The sinister character gave the story the one-two punch it required to make the audience sink their teeth into the meat of the tale. Debora was an incredible fit for the tall, selfish widow and only wanted for her daughters, not Cinderella, to marry into royalty to gain back her privileges she once was afforded. Debora gave her whole being into this role and the evil laugh was up to par with the bullying she was dishing out to the Stepdaughter she never wanted. She sung beautifully as she favoured daughter Gabrielle over Charlotte most of the show.
Matilda Moran played Stepdaughter Gabrielle and was the opposite of her sister Charlotte embodied by Bianca Bruce. They both wanted to please their mother and play dress up by going to the ball. However, Matilda brought an innocence, humbleness, and rebel streak to her character as she fell in love with the loud and lovable town protester Jean-Michel (played by Josh Gardiner), who is later rightfully elected Prime Minister. Whereas Bianca as Charlotte played a hilarious suck-up, bratty child-like persona and wanted to be loved, not just by a prince but her own family.
Sebastian, the Lord Chancellor to the throne and caretaker of Prince Topher was personified by none other than Nicholas Hammond. Nicholas is infamously known as Friedrich in the original ‘The Sound of Music’ 1965 film. Nicholas was a stunning Sebastian and played him so cunningly and tenaciously towards the Prince. The audience knew his character only wanted to be in power and have control of the Kingdom, not caring for the non-wealthy at all.
Lord Pinkleton was a crucial, featured role represented by the incomparable Daniel Belle. He was delightful as the town henchman, bringing all the townspeople the news of the ball in the song, ‘The Prince is giving a ball.’
The ensemble performers were vital to this production as they brought the piece together and filled the theatre will joy and impeccable ballroom dancing, particularly in the ‘Waltz for a ball’ scene. The women were hilarious when they all took turns trying on Cinderella’s glass slipper. All their individual characters were so animated and full of life it was beautiful to watch.
The magical production was glorious, comedic, heartfelt, and not one to be missed. Children, kids at heart and all in between can find your inner prince or princess in the perfect piece of romantic, ‘weak at the knees’ kind of live theatre. Go to relive your childhood fairy tale dreams and stay for the unstoppable Australian talent and midnight magic.
Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella the Musical
Playing now until 3 September
Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane
From 23 October
Sydney Lyric Theatre, Sydney
All images supplied.