Above – Ainsley Melham, Shubshri Kandiah and ensemble. Cover – Ainsley Melham and Todd McKenney. Photos – Ben Fon

It’s a tale as old as time, more specifically, the Cinderella of the Western world can be attributed to Charles Perrault’s version from 1697. The French fairy-tale Cendrillon (translation Cinderella) is a beloved as it is reincarnated in all its various forms. From opera to animation, ballet, and drama to, of course, the musical.

One of the most famous pairings in musical theatre history Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II joined forces in 1943 to create some of the world’s best-known musicals with Oklahoma! Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.

And of course, Cinderella, the classic story of an oppressed but kind orphan forced to work for her vain and selfish stepmother and stepsisters who is saved by her fairy godmother. It is a magical tale of triumph over adversity, of how those who are pure of heart will always succeed and those with villainous intentions can never do so.

Did I mention this is a fairy-tale?

While the concept of an honest, kind peasant overthrowing the monarchy and creating a system of democracy is baffling in itself, the story of Cinderella and its multitude of versions remains as seductive as ever. The Rodgers and Hammerstein version is a tongue in cheek incarnation of the original story (and fortunately less gruesome). Here we have dragons, monsters, and a prince, who while capable of bringing down these beasts has no concept of himself. Like any struggling millennial coming into his own, he is questioning everything and searching for his purpose. Played by Ainsley Melham Prince Topher (short for Christopher) is a lost little boy until of course that fateful evening he meets his future bride Ella (Shubshri Kandiah).

While the story is not new, the interpretation of it is delightful. In one of the most wholesome nights at the theatre possible, Cinderella incorporates all the sweetness and silliness of pantomime with the technical prowess (and budget) of a power-house musical production.

The costume changes were utterly magical and the smoothness that they were executed should be applauded. Kandiah was delightful as the tragic heroine Cinderella and played a completely authentic figure against the over-the-top characters of her stepsisters who were delightfully wicked (not evil) just a little vapid. Matilda Mora as Gabrielle was such fun and Bianca Bruce got a plethora of comic moments that she took full advantage of as Charlotte.

The soundtrack is delightful if not a bit familiar with the traditional R&H spin on most tunes making them sound just a bit like their other compositions. They were sung with absolute precision by the entire ensemble and gave the main characters their moment in the sun. And with a cast that includes the incomparable Todd McKenney (Sebastian) and Silvie Paladino as the fairy godmother, it’s only right that such musical theatre royalty take their moment, comedic, heartfelt or villainous, and absolutely run with it. In addition, Daniel Belle has the most glorious baritone that rings out through the Regent Theatre and is wonderfully hilarious in his role as Lord Pinkleton.

Cinderella is an absolutely joyful production, completely suitable for the whole family, children will adore it and adults will be amazed with the technical aspects. It’s a wholesome journey into a fairy tale world, free from all the pain, trouble and tribulations of adult life. Take a moment and enjoy the sweet fantastical world of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

Event details

Opera Australia and John Frost for Crossroads Live presents
Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
book Douglas Carter Beane

Venue: The Regent Theatre | 191 Collins St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 26 May – 23 July 2022
Tickets: From $69
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au

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