Icy Cinderella glitters and dazzles

23 Sep 08 - Canberra Times, Australia - Aaron Ridgeway

Cinderella on Ice weds Olympic-standard ice dancing to classical storytelling and, with the help of an astronomical budget, succeeds as a dazzling spectacle with a mere few flat spots.

Director Tony Mercer has impeccable credentials and a fine sense of the dramatic. His telling of the Cinderella story is clever, exciting and, at times, rather daring. Although the story is occasionally rather strange, worthy risks are taken and he manages to invest a very familiar tale with a few surprises.

In this version. Cinderella's father is a watchmaker, who must care for her after the death of her mother (depicted in a fluid and very moving opening scene). He has two employees, who are not unlike Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Both are terrific skaters and very funny characters. The fairy godmother is replaced by a gypsy fortune-teller, who possesses a strange power over the clocks in the village. The evil stepmother and her two daughters are satisfyingly awful (though their costumes, like most in this production, are sublime). Replacing a king and prince are a lord mayor (Statrislav Voituk in a comic role that provides few laughs) and his son (played by Andrei Penkine, a performer of heart-stopping skill). The principal cast members are supported by a kaleidoscopic ensemble of villagers.

Mercer plays some intellectual tricks to deliver a play that offers something for adults as well as the little ones. The play-within-a-play device works nicely, and there is genuine suspense when Cinderella (a very well-cast Olga Sharutenko) is asked to replace her wounded stepsister in a production of Swan Lake. (Cinderella on Ice was developed a couple of years ago, when Swan Lake on Ice was still touring, so Mercer added material from that show to this one.) Cinderella dazzles her audience and receives an invitation to the ball. The rest, as they say, is history.

This production ticks all the boxes. There is edge-of-your-seat suspense as Mercer takes us far behind the curtain, into the strange worlds of magic and ice dancing.The plot is somewhat convoluted, but it doesn't matter. This is a strong, ambitious, well executed affair that will create fond memories and set standards very high. The efforts and energy of the cast leave yougobsmacked at the final curtain.

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