Review: Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella the Musical at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre.

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Jeff B | Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
📷 Jeff B | Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

It is very difficult to present a story that is known and loved by all and be able to demand the attention of the audience as if they were seeing it for the first time. This is exactly what Opera Australia and Crossroads Live have been able to do with their production of Roger & Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the Sydney Lyric Theatre.

The whole experience left us feeling as if we had been transported to another world, with effects and transitions so smooth it had us questioning if the magic was real. Though this could have been because the entire experience, from start to finish, was full of surprises that had us wishing that midnight wouldn’t strike and that we would not have to go home from a night of joy and celebration.

Knowing that this musical was more influenced by the French Cinderella and adapted for television, moving through opera, plus a stopover on Broadway – It is a true accomplishment of Australian stage shows to produce and do justice to a production well-loved by all. The level of care and attention to detail showed that this deserves to be on the world stage.

Almost as if we were putting ourselves in Ella’s (Cinderella) shoes, our carriage arrived to mark the first sparkle of the evening. Though this was more of the sparkling wine variety and the modern version of the pumpkin and horse paralleled on stage later in the evening. The service HF Weddings & Hire Cars provided made us feel as if we were royalty.

Arriving with plenty of time for a pre-show dinner (more specifically, wagyu fried rice from Rumble), we also were able to see the enthusiasm of the guests attending the performance that evening. It’s clear that this production wants its audience to be reminded of what kindness looks like—and what an impact it can have on those around us. Which carried over from the stage to the halls as guests complimented each other on their efforts to look the part and be immersed in the story. Everyone understood what the evening was all about from floor-length ball gowns to subtle decorations.

The motif of generosity and kindness was perfectly displayed through the comparison of Prince Topher (Ainsley Melham) and Jean-Michel (Josh Gardner) who are both constrained (in their own way) but do what they can to help those around them. This spotlight was able to balance both sides of a kingdom in shambles as the evolution of civilisation continued throughout the narrative and musical numbers. Both of the storylines intersect with a crescendo at the perfect moment in a way that humanised the king and gave a platform for the royal’s people to speak openly, which was a pivotal moment to the happy ending we all know and love.

Shubshri Kandiah is the perfect Ella (Cinderella) who carries both style and grace that is reminiscent all the way back to Julie Andrews in 1958. Transformation is another major theme of the story, which the audience is shown at every stage of the evening. Most noticeably, we were blown away by the mystery of the seamless costume changes and set transitions that completely changed the mood and spectacle in a manner of seconds.

Who knew that a dress and spin could get people out of their seats?

The cast amazed everyone with their perfect set execution and glamorous wardrobe. However, the spectacle knew how to drive the attention of the audience to Ella through her beauty that was shown by more than her astonishing attire. Her kindness and transformation are what make her such a magical character, and she shows us that being kind is always beautiful.

For those who know Cinderella, we can’t go without mention of the Fairy Godmother (Silvie Paladino), without whom this story would not be possible. Though in this version, she is more recognised as Marie, who encourages Ella to dream of what could be possible. Her grand reveal during “Impossible; It’s Possible” had adults and children alike both dreaming of what they would like to be when they grow up. By working with Ella to define her wish, she showed us all that we can aim for anything if we just take the first step toward that goal. Also, this may have been sung all the way home as our number-one song of the night.

The evening had us feeling that dreams and stories are more possible than previously believed. The opening announcement of “leave your worries and troubles behind” rang true as this evening was one for our story books.