Elegance and excitement make frosty fairytale soar

26 Aug 08 - Sysney Morning Herald, Australia - Jill Sykes

IT FITS somewhere between pantomime and variety show, circus and romantic fairytale. Its broad brush strokes of storytelling may make some wince, but the overall effect is engaging and the skating is thrilling.

The daring cast speed around every centimetre of performing space left by Eamon D'Arcy's busy sets and offer heart-stopping moments as they skim, jump and whirl to the very edges.

It's a pleasure to welcome back a performer such as Vadim Yarkov, who has stepped up a generation to play Cinderella's father, but continues to skate with wonderful masculine elegance and to partner with reassuring skill. Those high lifts from Russian ballet and complex partnering sequences - some shoulder high, others barely clearing the ice - are dizzying at this speed in such a confined space.

While the Russian company carries a royal imprint in its title, the Imperial Ice Stars, the producers and the artistic director-choreographer Tony Mercer have gone for an egalitarian approach in adjusting the theme. There is no longer a prince: our hero is the mayor's son - though Andrei Penkine appears to have taken the vague qualities of a certain British prince as his model. Penkine skates seamlessly in flowing phrases that are glorious to watch. His Cinderella, Olga Sharutenko, is light, swift and dazzling in her main solo. Their duets are memorable, though it's disappointing to see such good skaters end the show with an undistinguished flying sequence.

There is some fun with clocks, built around the midnight theme and giving Cinderella's father, a watchmaker, something extra to do. Supporting roles such as Viktoria Zhukovstova's gypsy and Denis Balandin's Thirteen O'Clock add character and virtuosic skating variety. The wicked stepmother also turns out to be the monstrous ballet mistress - Olena Pyatash, all sinuous push.

Albina Gabueva's costumes are exhilarating, giving the female performers an extra dimension through the weight, cut and layering of skirts that float as they move. Music composed for the production by Tim Duncan and Edward Barnwell, with a little help from Tchaikovsky and others, helps to project the action.

Some scenes go on a little long but the children around me were absorbed from start to finish. So were their mums, dads, grandparents - it's that kind of show.

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