Cinderella on Ice
The Imperial Ice Stars
Music composed by Tim A Duncan and Edward Barnwell
Sunderland Empire and touring
The freezing weather conditions outside seemed only fitting for the dramatic icy scenes we watched unfolding before us inside the theatre. But far from leaving us cold, and reaching for jackets and scarves, this is an icy spectacle that leaves you warm and thoroughly toasty.
I must admit the 'on ice' bit of the title can be disconcerting before coming to see a production like this. The worry is that the tale will be somehow devalued, kitschy and cartoon-like, with movements constrained.
No such worries, though, when it's in the capable hands of The Imperial Ice Stars, a 25-strong cast of the cream of Russian skating talent as well as Olympic, World and European championship skaters.
The show is balletic, athletic and dramatic: one almost forgets they're performing this on ice.
With stunning costumes (masses of chiffon and lace and fitted suits) and whirling and twirling galore, it makes for fantastic theatre.
Having seen The Imperial Ice Stars perform Swan Lake on Ice a couple of years ago, they once again work their magic in this new interpretation of the timeless classic.
This Cinderella re-telling appears somewhat darker than the simple pantomime versions theatre-goers are more familiar with. It's more moody and much more dramatic, working well with the flashy skating.
This version tells the story of Cinderella, a humble chorus dancer who is thrust into the spotlight as a prima ballerina and captivates the Lord Mayor's son with her performance.
Despite rival attempts by her pretty but dastardly stepsisters to steal his heart, the watchmakers and fortune-teller ensure love triumphs.
Olga Sharutenko as Cinderella is utterly superb, fluid and graceful, making it all look so easy. While Andrei Penkine as the son is captivating, his daring on the ice and athleticism have to be seen to be believed.
Cinderella's father played by Vadim Yarkov is similarly hugely exciting to watch with his thrilling manoeuvres.
The specially commissioned music, composed by Tim A Duncan and Edward Barnwell, is pre-recorded, as timing is all for the skaters, as you can imagine.
It all feels fresh and original, with a genuinely absorbing storyline.
Reviewer: Katharine Capocci