Before the show even began, the audience at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre were buzzing with energy, finally, it seemed, comfortable and delighted to be back in a packed theatre with reckless abandon.
This electric mood meant that from the moment the show began, the crowd was ready to cheer, whoop and laugh along with the story set to unfold – just like a seasoned audience would!
From the very beginning, the spectacular set was a notable focal point though this was soon eclipsed by an offering of stellar vocals, flawless choreography and showstopping costuming.
Image © Ben Fon
A story known and loved for many years, 'Cinderella' is a straightforward narrative, but with the Rodgers + Hammerstein treatment (perhaps mixed with a few gentle 2022 tweaks), the songs, humour and light political commentary held the crowd’s attention well for the length of the show. We quickly met Ella, or as her stepmother says, Cinderella, played by Shubshri Kandiah, who hit every note with perfection. It should be mentioned that it was a joy to see a South Asian performer cast in a role – like many roles – that would generally be filled by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Disney-esque white woman. It was wonderful to experience diversity being represented in a retelling of a ‘classic’.
The story was quickly established as Ella was joined by other key characters, including Madame – her stepmother, played with perfection by Tina Bursill who received a particularly big cheer from the crowd. We learned that Ella is kind and caring to people from all walks of life, a trait that will of course serve her well. The plight of the poor was introduced by Jean-Michel (Josh Gardine), and this served to provide both a useful narrative device and a touch of politics to ground the story in some relatable reality.
Image © Jeff Busby
As the show progressed, it was the top-notch performances that made it a memorable night. Credit must be paid to Daniel Belle playing Lord Pinkleton, whose bellowing voice resonated beautifully throughout the theatre and to Silvie Paladino whose charming and fun rendition of the Fairy Godmother role was an utter delight. Our prince for the evening was played by Ainsley Melham whose performance gave depth and joy to the show’s love interest. And a good review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Todd McKenney – only performing in the Melbourne season, who brought so much humour and quirk to the role of Sebastian.
Image © Jeff Busby
True magic was on display throughout with stunning on-stage costume transformations which happened right before our eyes. For the children in the audience, these moments really would have seemed like actual magic. And while of course there are aspects of the show which will enchant younger people, this is by no means just a show for kids – or those with them in tow. With a little bit of something to appeal to all ages, 'Cinderella' is a gentle and warm romp into classic musical theatre, presented with all the expert production values contemporary crowds have come to expect.