CINDERELLA ON ICE.  Artistic director/choreographer: Tony Mercer. Original scenic designer: Eamon D’arcy. Lighting designer: Mark Jonathan. Composers: Tim A Duncan and Edward James Barnwell. Costume designer: Albina Gabueva. With The Imperial Ice Stars including Olga Sharutenko, Bogdan Berezenko, Sergei Lisev, Maria Mukhortova, Alina Saprykina, Elana Shurakova, Volodymyr Khodakiviskyy, Fiona Kirk, Stanislav Pertsov and Dmitrii Ivanov.

'Cinderella on Ice'

KAREN RUTTER reviews

There is something utterly magical about ice dance. Magical, and also mystifying. While on the one hand it entrances with an ethereal beauty, on the other it impresses with a muscular physicality. The performers present with the greatest of ease, yet one is aware of the high standard of technical mastery in their every move. Moreover, they’re constantly smiling – even when skating at speeds of up to 35km on a small, enclosed ice floor.

The Moscow-based Imperial Ice Stars have been wowing South African audiences with this blend of thrills since 2004. They started with Sleeping Beauty, then Swan Lake, and even premiered The Nutcracker here. This version of Cinderella on Ice is an update on the 2008 original, which toured over 22 countries worldwide and features a unique take on the timeless fairytale. It is ice dance – and The Imperial Ice Stars – at the top of the game, and it had audiences gasping, clapping and rising to a well-deserved standing ovation by the end of it.

In this interpretation, set in a town in Siberia, Cinderella is training to be a ballerina. She misses her mother, who passed away when she was a child. Her father, a watchmaker, loves her dearly but her stepmother and her two daughters are not as kindly disposed. During a ballet class, Cinderella and her step-sisters are surprised by a visit from the handsome Lord Mayor’s son. He is smitten by Cinderella’s dancing, and it is clear the two have a spark. Later, he plans a big party – and Cinderella is told, by a sympathetic Gypsy Fortune Teller, that her dream of attending the party will come true.

'Cinderella on Ice'

Act Two begins with a fabulous ballroom party, where Cinderella, in disguise, entrances the Lord Mayor’s son. But she forgets her curfew – as exemplified by the scary 13 O’ Clock figure – and has to rush off, leaving an ice skate behind. The Mayor’s son searches for the owner of the skate, eventually locates Cinderella, and true love triumphs.

Cinderella gets lots more scope

While sticking to the basics of the classic story, this version allows Cinderella much more scope, and plays down some of the less savoury stereotypes. The Mayor’s son falls in love with her because of her dancing skills (not just because she is pretty), and she plays an active role in achieving her own success.

It’s a wonderful staging, with Tony Mercer’s choreography pushing the ice dancers to their limits in a series of exciting, vibrant and often awe-inspiring scenes. The ensemble pieces, where there are sometimes 12 or more performers on the (smallish) Artscape stage, are a blur of perfectly synchronised movement where you almost need to see the show twice (or more) to catch all the action. The duets and smaller showcases allow for individual expressions and characterisations to stand out, amidst bursts of virtuosic solos. The original score, composed by Tim A Duncan and Edward James Barnwell, is remarkably expressive and suitably dramatic, the costumes are just fabulous, and the set is striking.

'Cinderella on Ice'

All the ice dancers are an absolute dream to watch, with some standouts even amongst this high-level company: Olga Sharutenko (Cinderella) and Bogdan Berezenko (Lord Mayor’s son) are a dream pair; Sergei Lisev cuts a consistently impressive figure as Cinderella’s Dad; Maria Mukhortova is a pocket rocket as the nasty step-Mum; and Stanislav Pertsov and Dmitrii Ivanov are incredible sparkplugs of energy. This production of Cinderella on Ice is a real joy to watch, and clocking in at under two hours with an interval, is totally family-friendly. Not to mention bloody amazing. It’s a kind of magic, indeed.

What: Cinderella on Ice

Where and when: Artscape from until 28 January 2018

Book: Computicket or 021 438 3300

WS