TAKING a classic story and giving it a modern twist seems to be the current trend on stage, with musicals such as And Juliet and Six delighting audiences with their spin. Australia’s newest home-grown production, Midnight – the Cinderella Musical, premiered at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre on June 25 with star power in the cast, thanks to Shane Jacobson, Lucy Durack and Verity Hunt-Ballard.
There’s also plenty of experience in the production team with music/lyrics by Jewish composer-conductor John Foreman and Anthony Costanzo, working on a book and direction by Dean Murphy and Jewish actor-director Pip Mushin, plus energetic choreography by Kelly Aykers and musical direction by Anthony Barnhill (fresh from composing the music, songs and lyrics for Driftwood – the Musical). Midnight has been in the works for several years and was delayed by the COVID lockdown, but it could benefit from a trim to the numerous twists in the overlong production.
Newcomer Brianna Bishop, who has performed in Hairspray, stars as Ella, a feisty young woman who fights for social justice and meets the prince (Thomas McGuane, who performed in Frozen) in a chance encounter without realising who he is.
There are plenty of secret meetings between them before ending up at the royal ball, which Cinderella has to make a hasty departure before midnight. Of course, there are evil stepsisters, a fairy godmother (Durack) and a delightful teddy bear who could pass for one of TV’s Muppets.
Jacobson has the plum role of the king and his comic presence as a lovable rogue is a highlight, especially when he sings Being the King.
Hunt-Ballard hams it up as Madame Bellington, the scheming stepmother trying to marry off her daughters to the prince.
Singer Kate Miller-Heidke contributes a song, Without You, which Bishop sings as one of Midnight’s best numbers.
McGuane shines as the affable prince who is determined to step out of the king’s shadow, while Matt Lee gives a good performance as the prince’s long-suffering aide, Andre.
There is plenty of comedy in Midnight, both in spoken word and sight gags, energetic dancing from the ensemble and powerful anthems sung by the cast, even if there’s not a big hit among them.
It’s a shame that Midnight’s sets look very basic and could benefit from being more lavish, while clever lighting effects add to the impact.
Midnight is at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne until July 23. Bookings: midnightmusical.com.au