Ballet review: Storytime Ballet: Cinderella, Arts Centre Melbourne

A magical storytime ballet that’s a delight for children and adults alike.
Cinderella. Image is a ballet dancer in a blue layered costume dancing with arms out to the side and balanced en pointe with one leg raised behind her. She is on a stage with a large moon and starry sky as the backdrop. A male and female dancer are on the left and right hand side of the stage respectively.

Created specifically for children, this interactive ballet entrances kids of all ages and warm the hearts of the grown-ups in the audience.

With choreography and production from David McAllister, Cinderella is a magical journey from the first walk through the foyer. A kid-sized media wall, dress-up booth and a program with a colouring sheet illustrated by Beci Orpin all adds to the wholesome atmosphere.

In this take on the fairytale, Cinderella’s father is alive and guides kids through the story. He is kind, but ultimately a little foolish and careless. This, of course, is where the audience comes in, helping him to summon enough power to transport everyone to the ball, to remind him of where he has hidden his wand and to wake him up when Cinderella needs his help. Sean McGrath played his role beautifully in Melbourne, with clear narration and body language, and an openness to the young audience. 

Light-up wands are a significant part of the experience, aiding the father when he needs some magical support and allowing children to actively contribute to the development of the story. 

Chantelle van der Hoek and Sophie Wormald, as the cruel stepsisters, dance “badly” exceptionally well. Their feeble attempts to win over the Prince and their fights with each other and Cinderella along the way, are funny and well-timed. Kids and adults alike will chuckle at their antics. Kit Thompson as the Countess is equally wicked, but with a little more poise and regality than her daughters as she tries to get them in line.

Partner work from Cinderella (Nicole Moshidis) and the Prince (Jeremy Hargreaves) is seamless, allowing the audience to get swept up in their love story. 

The set and costume design have been developed in collaboration with students from the Master of Design and Production degree at the Victorian College of the Arts. 

Costume design from Louisa Fitzgerald, with mentor Hugh Colman, clearly distinguishes the status and personality of each character. Fitzgerald’s design also effectively connects characters through colour. This is demonstrated with the stepsisters dressed in bold and bright shades, while the other attendees at the ball wear softer hues, and Cinderella’s ball gown is paired perfectly with the Prince’s blue suit.

Set design from Ishan Vivekanantham and mentor Christina Smith is charming and offers clear locations for the young crowd. Illusion design from Lee Cohen is equally effective, especially the way the moon morphs into a clock and Cinderella transitions from her dirty clothes to a glittering ball gown. 

Read: Theatre review: Is That You, Ruthie?, Cremorne Theatre

This storytime ballet is undoubtedly a delight, both for children starting to learn about the world of dance and for the adult attendees, long enamoured by tulle, tutus and exceptional beauty.

Storytime Ballet: Cinderella
The Australian Ballet with Orchestra Victoria
Playhouse, Arts Centre, Melbourne

Choreography and production: David McAllister
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev Cinderella, Op. 87, performed by Orchestra Victoria
Conductor: Jonathan Lo
Costume design: Louisa Fitzgerald
Costume design mentor: Hugh Colman
Set design: Ishan Vivekanantham
Set design mentor: Christina Smith
Illusion design: Lee Cohen
Lighting design: Jon Buswell

Storytime Ballet: Cinderella was performed at the Arts Centre Melbourne until 17 December 2023. It will tour to Sydney from 20-29 December 2023, Adelaide from 4-7 January 2024, Canberra from 11-14 January and Brisbane from 18-21 January.

Savannah Indigo is a researcher and copywriter, trained in publishing, dance, literature and law. Passionate about gender issues and promoting equity through tech design, she has researched Indigenous Data Sovereignty for the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector and is developing a paper about harassment in the Metaverse. She has written for Brow Books, Books+Publishing magazine, The Journal of Supernatural Literature (Deakin University) and the Science and Technology Law Association, and is a 2022 Hot Desk Fellow at The Wheeler Centre.