Review: Midnight – The Cinderella Musical

Comedy Theatre
Until 23 July

Cinderella, like you have never seen her before.

She’s an activist who refuses to be pushed around.

She has strong views about the crown and its lack of action in addressing the needs of the people who are struggling to make ends meet.

She is out to change that narrative.

Photos by Pia Johnson

While all this seems to be driven by the king, who is out to feather his own nest at the expense of “the great unwashed”, she is angry at the prince for being complicit.

The latter seems to be doing nothing to stop the king’s exploitative ways.

This reimagined version of an age-old tale remains Cinderella and the prince’s story, but with decided twists.

When we first meet Ella, she is saddened by the loss of her beloved mother.

Still, with her caring father guiding the way, she moves on with her life.

A livewire, who always busies herself, she grows up in fine style, pushing back at pomposity and entitlement.

To that end, she keeps onto bumping into a boy, then a teenager and a young man who she doesn’t much care for, but clearly she leaves a lasting impression on him.

Of course, he turns out to be the prince.

But Ella’s life takes a turn for the worse when, without notice, her father re-marries a two-faced woman with two daughters of her own.

In no time, her stepmother is calling the shots, the woman’s glossy exterior giving way to her true character.

Meanwhile, the king is mighty keen to marry off his son to the emperor’s daughter. In fact, there is an imperative to do so.

But what is driving the king isn’t driving the prince and certainly not Ella, who remains determined to save the real workers from poverty.

Midnight, The Cinderella Musical unfolds through a story being read by a young girl (the narrator), who makes amendments to it along the way.

With a surfeit of ear pleasing chorus numbers, stirring solos, polished dance routines and colourful costumes, it is a delightful flight of fancy.

The thrilling new music is by John Foreman and Anthony Costanzo, with additional music and lyrics from Kate Miller-Heidke.

The musical director is Anthony Barnhill, while choreography is the work of Kelly Aykers.

This updated Cinderella is infused with pithy one-liners and physical humour, its comedic bent being a mainstay of the production.

The book is by Dean Murphy and Pip Mushin, who also direct the show.

There are magical surprises, too, that by their very nature I don’t want to spoil.

Brianna Bishop brings her honeyed vocalisation to the fore and readily captures the essence of Ella’s feistycharacter. It is a golden performance that carries with it star power. She is every bit the leading lady.

Thomas McGuane makes for a dashing prince searching for direction.

The cheery, poised Lucy Durack is a winner as a housekeeper and independent fairy godmother.

Matt Lee has a ball as the prince’s most trusted aide, Andre and Ella’s teddy bear, Mr Abernathy.

Verity Hunt-Ballard is the epitome of when bad is good, as the evil stepmother Madame Bellington.

Melanie Bird shines as Ella’s thieving, nasty stepsister Tiffany, alongside Kristine Nguy as Rosie.

Raphael Wong exudes empathy as Ella’s father.

In a persona that fits him like a comfortable pair of warm socks to keep out the winter chill, Shane Jacobson revels as the self-serving monarch.

Opening night saw Isobel Lauber as the polished and enthusiastic narrator.

It is a role she will alternate with Alberta Brudan, Liv Jacobson and Elisa Villa.

The 22-strong cast on stage, complete with orchestra, bring gusto to a lively show eight years in the making.

I appreciated the charm, romance and shenanigans of Midnight, exciting new Aussie-born and bred musical that is it.

Two and a half hours, including a 20-minute interval, it is playing at Comedy Theatre until 23rd July, 2023.

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Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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