Story to melt hearts

27 Aug 08 - Daily Telegraph, Australia - Jill Sykes

The proliferation of large-scale Disneythemed ice shows in recent years might make prospective audience members for Cinderella On Ice shudder at the thought of bouffant costumes, tacky plastic props and skaters dressed as giant animals.

But ice skeptics shouldn't be deterred because this production by the Moscow-based Imperial Ice Stars is delightfully sleek.

You needn't be a child, or accompanying a child, to enjoy the show, or a fan of the figure skating in the Winter Olympics to appreciate the extraordinary talent of this cast of Russian skaters, who elegantly flip, spin and jump. Everything about this glitzy production is razor sharp, and even the plot is streamlined so that in the hands of director Tony Mercer, the story of Cinderella is transformed for a modern audience.

The heroine, played with a gentle sweetness by Olga Sharutenko, is the daughter of the town watchmaker (Vadim Yarkov), and an aspiring ballet dancer. She is adored by the townsfolk, who have watched over her since her mother tragically died, yet Cinderella is the object of loathing by her nasty stepmother (Olena Pyatash) and stepsisters (Svetlana Fadeeva and Olga Boguslavska). She captures the eye of the Lord Mayor's son (Andrei Penkine) and they fall in love after he sees her perform the lead role in the local ballet production of Swan Lake.

With the help of the Gypsy Fortune Teller (Viktoria Zhukovstova), Cinderella attends the party the Lord Mayor (Stanislav Voituk) throws in honour of his son. After a series of complications, including a memorable scene in which all the girls dance with only one skate as they compete to see which foot will fit Cinderella's dainty boot, the two lovers are ultimately reunited.

Everything about this production is lovely: the costumes are elaborate, the sets are welldesigned, the music is perfectly chosen and the skaters look as though they are having fun.

Only the most cold-hearted cynic could fail to be charmed by the romance and innocent fantasy of this show, and only the most jaded viewer could resist feeling impressed by the ability and passion of the performers.

Of course there were plenty of little ones in the audience marvelling at the show and waving pink wands sold at the merchandise stall, but it's hard to say whether it's the children or the adults cheering more loudly.

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