Cinderella on Ice | The Imperial Ice Stars

Ballet is tricky enough. Ballet on ice brings on a whole slew of additional obstacles, the first of which is creating the ice stage. A forty minute delay to the start of Cinderella on Ice put a slight damper on The Imperial Ice Stars opening night. It was most likely a technical hitch with the ice, which, in a complicated touring production like this, is not unexpected.

But, in the theatre-biz, the show must go on. The Ice Stars managed a performance with surprisingly few tumbles and glitches, considering the wracked nerves on top of the usual challenges of dancing on a slippery stage. The late start meant that many of the younger audience members where asleep in their seats by interval and tucked into bed by the time the curtain touched down. For those of us who stuck it out until the clock struck midnight, we at least made it home before thirteen o’clock, which is more than can be said for our sweet Cinderella.  

This is the third Australian tour from the Russian company comprised of ice skating champions whose careers have shifted from competitive ice-rinks to the international stage. First they brought us Sleeping Beauty in 2004. They then moved onto Swan Lake in 2006 and now in 2008, Cinderella. With each Melbourne season they have shifted into bigger venues, so they must be doing something right. (Perhaps next year they’ll join Disney on Ice in the arena environment).

Their takes on the classics are liberal in all areas and put a physically extreme slant on a narrative ballet. In Cinderella, the musical arrangement is not Prokofiev’s composition, but a flourishing and melodramatic musical arrangement by Tim Duncan, Peter Whitfield and Edward Barnwell. It suits the circular and swirling energy of ice dancing and has a “big” feeling like that of a movie score. Design is also eclectic. Sets include both an art-deco inspired ballroom and a village square. Flimsy dresses mingle with crisp pantsuits, straw hats and sunglasses while the ticking clock is represented by an army of shiny, gold bodies. Cinderella’s fairy godmother is a gypsy fortune teller and, in a cute touch, the glass slipper is a skate. (This means women have to skate around on one leg, with the other foot bare when they try on the slipper – just one of the dozens of tricky maneuvers that the choreography requires.)

Everything about the show is big and ensemble sections are brimming with ever-shifting spatial patterns, ridiculously precarious lifts, fluid duets and even aerial work. Choreographer Tony Mercer throws in a bit of everything, and surprisingly, it works. This Cinderella seems cleaner and tighter than both Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake (this may be partially due to the larger stage.) The ice creates a whole different quality to ballet dancing. All the choreography flows in a circular direction and has a fantastic sense of sweeping physicality. The aerial sections include characters suspended from harnesses to intensify the visual effect of lifts and to suggest the euphoria of love. A tissu act embellishes the military precision of the group formations of the ticking clock

Andrei Penkine is the Lord Mayor’s son (the prince) who emotes with an endearing appeal. He’s over-the-top…but what isn’t in this show? He also does crazily difficult leg work that looks like Irish step dancing (hard enough without skates and a killer on the knees!). Olga Sharutenko is the more straight faced Cinderella, who, as a personality is slightly flat, but her solo skating and duets with Penkine really excel. Equally strong in the skating department is Vadim Yarkov who doubles as Cinderella’s father and the watchmaker. All performers are athletes first, performers second, with the exception of Penkine, who captures both the emotion and the athleticism required of his role. Their skill and control is top notch, but some character work lacks substance. Luckily in this sort of busy show, you can get away with under par dramatic expression since the focus is bold ice dancing and large images.

These extravaganza productions are hit or miss. Ice dancing will always have its share of corny and camp and this stylistically varied show could have easily strayed into overly kitschy territory at the expense of great skating talent. But, to its great credit, it didn’t. It showcased the skills of the dancers and the overall effect was that of exuberant storytelling with rarely a dull moment.

With such a tardy opening, it was initially feeling rather ominous for Cinderella on Ice’s opening night, but all elements miraculously united in a joyful synchronicity and had a happily ever after.


The Imperial Ice Stars
Cinderella on Ice


www.imperialicestars.com

MELBOURNE
Venue:
State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Dates & Times:
Tuesday 5 August at 7.30pm
Wednesday 6 August at 7.30pm
Thursday 7 August at 1pm and 7.30pm
Friday 8 August at 7pm
Saturday 9 August at 2pm and 7.30pm
Sunday 10 August at 1pm and 5pm
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 or online www.ticketmaster.com.au


ADELAIDE
Venue:
Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide
Dates & Times:
Wednesday 13 August at 7.30pm
Thursday 14 August at 1pm and 7.30pm
Friday 15 August at 7.30pm
Saturday 16 August at 2pm and 7.30pm
Sunday 17 August at 1pm and 5pm
Bookings: Bass 131 246 or online www.bass.net.au
 

SYDNEY
Venue:
Theatre Royal, 108 King Street, Sydney
Dates: Friday 22 August to Sunday 31 August
Times:
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday matinee at 1pm
Saturday matinee at 2pm
Sunday at 3pm
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012 or online www.ticketek.com.au

 
CANBERRA
Venue:
Canberra Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra
Dates: Thursday 18 September to Sunday 28 September
Times:
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday matinee at 1pm
Saturday matinee at 2pm
Sunday at 3pm
Bookings: Canberra Ticketing on 02 6275 2700 or online www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au


BRISBANE
Venue:
Lyric Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre | Cnr Grey & Melbourne Streets, South Bank 
Dates & Times:
Wednesday 1 October at 7.30pm
Thursday 2 October at 1pm and 7.30pm
Friday 3 October at 7.30pm
Saturday 4 October at 2pm and 7.30pm
Sunday 5 October at 1pm and 5pm
Bookings: QTIX or 136 246 | www.qtix.com.au


PERTH
Venue:
Burswood Theatre, Burswood Entertainment Complex, Great Eastern Hwy, Burswood
Dates: Friday 10 October to Sunday 19 October
Times:
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday matinee at 1pm
Saturday matinee at 2pm
Sunday 12 October at 1pm and 5pm, Sunday 19 October at 1pm
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012 or online www.ticketek.com.au

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