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Cinderella is a musical that evokes fond memories in both adults and children. For adults, it’s a beautiful reminder of their childhood and for children, it provides that spark of magic that gets them so excited. Indeed, while the children who attended Wednesday’s performance of Cinderella had an absolute ball, the adults loved this too. There really was something in it for everyone.
The magic of this show really came from the production team and the cast. Cinderella is something that evokes positive memories for many, as a fairy tale, but as a show there is not a lot of substance to it meaning that it really relies on the cast to drive the show. Additionally, with Cinderella being straight out of the Rodgers and Hammerstein ‘Golden Age’ of theatre, director Mark Brokaw had a lot of work to do to ensure that the musical stayed modern and engaging for a 2022 audience. But the production team and the cast did an incredible job of keeping up with the times, with the modern voice of Ainsley Melham (Topher) being a particular highlight. I thought he was excellent in Pippin and again, he brought a youthful exuberance to this role which suited the story well. Silvie Paladino was also amazing as the show-stopping Marie, with her beautiful voice really shining through.
While Melham and Paladino were stand-outs, the whole cast shone in this musical. Josh Rhodes’ choreography was incredibly polished and well done, which gave a sense of structure to the show as a whole. But the thing that set this production apart and helped to keep it seeming fresh and modern was the staging and costume changes. Some of the children in our audience cheered in delight every time there was a fast costume change, and there were audible gasps around the rest of the crowd. Even after a number of costume changes, I was still amazed how the outside costume seemed to vanish while the character was still on stage. Not only were the costume changes incredible but the costumes themselves were lavish and ornate, wowing the audience at every stage. The set design was also gorgeous, delighting the children in the audience.
But while the whole cast was brilliant, special praise must go to Shubshri Kandiah who really stole the show. A bone-fide star, Kandiah commanded the stage from the first instant she walked upon it, lighting up the production with her spectacular voice, great character acting and an earnestness that is necessary for the character of Cinderella. Her presence was felt throughout the performance and her chemistry with Melham was excellent. I think it’s also important to raise the representational element of Kandiah’s performance as well. Kandiah is the first lead of South Asian background in a major Australian theatre production that I can remember and in an industry which has been marred by controversy around diversity in casting in recent years, this is certainly a step in the right direction. The strength of Kandiah’s performance will likely encourage more children of diverse backgrounds to get into musical theatre and just having that representation in any case is incredibly valuable. It is a credit to her that she has taken on the challenge of representing so many and done it so well.
Overall, this was a stunning musical from start to finish. Although the source material is perhaps not the most exciting, requiring the cast to do a bit more, in this case they rose to the challenge to put on a fabulous production that will please children and adults alike.