Cinderella on Ice - Artscape Opera House

18 Jan 10 - Cape Argus, South Africa - Beverley Brommert

Scintillating performances in aglamorous setting more than meet expectations in this latest offering from the Imperial Ice Stars, whose collective proficiency on the rink is already familiar to Cape Town audiences.

The classic fairy tale of joy and success after prolonged oppression receives a new twist in this version with Time occupying a significant role in the story.

Cinderella's father is a watchmaker, time-pieces feature prominently in the set-design, and a character named Thirteen O' Clock appears as a reminder of that midnight deadline. The story is updated from the traditional 18th-century to the early 20th, with a welcome emphasis on ballet incorporated into the action.

No longer a servant in rags, this Cinderella is a ballerina in training whose social ascent begins when her stellar performance in Swan Lake attracts the attention of the Lord Mayor's handsome son.

Among the identifiable delights of this production is the music, specially composed by Tim A Duncan and Edward Barnwell. Lyrical and ear-pleasing, it provides the ideal accompaniment for Tony Mercer's imaginative choreography.

Highlights are, predictably the par de deux between Cinderella and her beloved, culminating in their final dance together once the owner of the petite skatingboot has been identified.

Also outstanding is the scene in which Cinderella, having shone as Odette in Swan Lake, takes a bow with her elegant fellow dancers to a huge audience depicted on the backdrop, the real spectators having the illusion of being onstage.

Other tours de force include the use of wires to whirl the skaters aloft to dizzying heights in mid-dance. Their descent is so delicately accomplished that they seem ethereal beings effortlessly defying gravity. This injects a surreal element into the production, appropriate in the context of a fairy-tale. Also stimulating is the ever-present sense of danger as all the moves are executed at giddy speed.

Albina Gabueva's costumes have the sophistication of haute-couture, giving a more adult look to this version of Cinderella. Therein lies the key to the charm of Mercer's production: tradition and originality counter-balance each other in perfect harmony.

Not to be missed.

Interview with Andrei Penkine

The Skater who cuts a fine figure as a prince...

A handsome leading man, who is familiar to local audiences for his role as the Lilac Prince in Sleeping Beauty on Ice and Siegfried's confidante Benno in Swan Lake on Ice, Andrei Penkine stars as the Lord mayor's son (the prince) in Cinderella on Ice.

Q: Describe the magic that makes Cinderella?
A:The period it is staged in. Romanov allows for new moves on the ice, and how everybody knows the story of Cinderella and yet it as if they see it for the first time when they see it on ice.

Q: What makes it different from other ice tales?
A: The music - I love that we have originally composed music for this production, not the Prokoviev music from the Cinderella ballet. It works better for ice because it was made for ice.

Q: This is your third visit here. What do you know about SA, remember and look forward to?
A: I love South Africa. The people are so friendly and the audiences are very welcoming. I have been to see lots of places, both in Joburg and Cape Town. i love the craft markets and look forward to revisiting your steakhouses.

Q: Do you have time or manage a routine to live a real life when you are travelling?
A: When you are travelling you have a routine of rehearsals and shows and then you have time for yourself. We do get time out and are able to have time for ourselves.

Q: Are you married?
A: Yes. My partner is Olena Pyatash (who plays the wicked stepmother in the show).

Q: How do the two of you manage a family life?
A: We have a nine year old son. He travels with us occasionally when the school holidays permit. We stay in touch through SKYPE when his is not with us.
David, our son, is also learning to be a figure skater and he has appeared in our show in Thailand.

Q: What kind of life do you lead when not on tour?
A: I am a very active person and a great fan of football. Manchester United is my favourite team, though I'm a fan of Russian football teams too. When I am not touring I enjoy spending time at home in St Petersburg with Olena and David and catching up with family and friends. I enjoy cooking and must admit I'm very good.

Q: How much skating do you do during a season, apart from the performances?
A: To keep my body incondition I rehearse for an hour before shows and then do some ground exercises before a show to warm up.
When I am not touring, I will go to our ice rink maybe twice a week, if not more.

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