Cinderella on Ice @ Royal Albert Hall, London

cast list
Olga Sharutenko, Andrey Penkin, Stanislav Voytuk, Vadim Yarkov, Olena Pyatash, Marija Balaba, Anna Lopatochkina, Ruslan Novoseltsev, Maxim Belyakov, Andrey Bannikov, Nataliia Karpych, Jurijs Salmanovs, Bogdan Berezenko, Irina Drozhzhina

directed by
Tony Mercer
The Imperial Ice Stars have been touring the world for six years, and their productions of The Sleeping Beauty on Ice and Swan Lake on Ice have played to millions of people in numerous countries.

Their latest show, Cinderella on Ice, is their most adventurous yet because it bears little resemblance to the original ballet. Not only does the plot now involve a chorus dancer being handed the lead in Swan Lake and capturing the heart of the Mayors son, but the music is not even Prokofievs, the score having been composed by the conductor Tim A Duncan, and pianist Edward James Barnwell.

If all this sounds just too cheesy to be true, it is worth noting that whilst ice skating may be different to ballet, that certainly does not make it an inferior discipline.
On the contrary, because it encourages such incredible speeds and manoeuvres it can take dancing to places that classical ballet simply cannot go, and some of the skating moves featured in this show are actually unique.

When director Tony Mercer failed to gain the rights to Prokofievs score because it was deemed that it did not lend itself to ice dance, Duncan and Barnwell wrote their own. Although one wouldnt want to overdo the comparison, if Tchaikovsky remains the master at composing music that works naturally with ballet steps, this pair demonstrate a similarly sure command of the needs of the skate.

The same is true of the dancing itself. The men twist and throw the women high through the air, skating fast enough to catch them again. The Watchmaker spins frenetically whilst both Cinderella and her Stepmothers legs are gripped tight around his waist. Skaters move in the most graceful formations before suddenly coming to a standstill with a well-timed turn of the foot, whilst from amongst the talented soloists Olga Sharutenkos Cinderella stands out. This is not only because she succeeds in applying a certain monumentality to her chic and elegant turns, but also since she glides into and out of them with such grace.

There are times, however, when the production tries too hard with its narrative embellishments, and its staging of Swan Lake as a part of the plot is a bridge too far. It is not only that the rendering of Tchaikovskys music is the one occasion where the orchestral sound is tacky, but because the voiceovers to explain the Ugly Sisters injury and Cinderellas stepping into the principal role are just too much. If you imagine how excruciating it would be for a classical production of Swan Lake to be interrupted by a huge voice booming to the rafters, it is only marginally less so here.

Happily, excepting a first night sound system failure that wont be repeated, Act Two makes no such mistakes. The plot sees a gypsy sending all of the clocks haywire, and we witness a piece where the numbers come to life and dance agitatedly in spiky formations. An entire scene is choreographed for the ladies to skate on one foot so that they can each try Cinderellas lost skate on the other, and although the choreography that accompanies the curtain call feels like a compilation of every dancers party piece that didnt make it into the show, it is no less thrilling to watch for that.

With Albina Gabuevas costumes also being exquisite, the only people I would unequivocally advise to stay at home are the ballet purists. For anyone else, whether they are wishing to give their family a special treat or simply curious as to just how far skating is capable of taking ballet, Cinderella on Ice is a worthwhile, and frequently exhilarating, experience.

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