Midnight – The Cinderella Musical
Music and Lyrics by John Foreman and Anthony Costanzo, with additional music and lyrics by Kate Miller-Heidke. Book and Direction by Dean Murphy and Pip Mushin.
Reviewed by Vito Mattarelli
World Premiere season
The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne
Until July 23rd
- A new Australian musical that (after further edits) should be a crowd-pleasing show for the whole family -
It is always with great anticipation and some hesitation that we await the opening of a new Australian musical. Recent history has granted us more hits than misses, so the stakes are high for Midnight – The Cinderella Musical. And the verdict, following a rapturous opening night audience, is we may have another hit show to grace our stages.
The creatives of Midnight suggest that they were inspired by the classic story of Cinderella and her charming Prince. What they have delivered is a very faithful retelling of a familiar story, but here Ella is a strong-willed, gutsy young woman more interested in providing better housing and a soup kitchen for the poor than in any self-centred royal. Our Prince is also more progressive, but perhaps ignorant on the true plight of the common people, although he seems ready for change. Naturally their paths cross, and while their mutual attraction is obvious, the King has decided that his son must announce his engagement to a suitable partner at a lavish ball – by midnight.
Photos by Pia Johnson
Co-writers/directors Dean Murphy and Pip Mushin have written a witty script that is very family-friendly, but which also needs some editing and refinement. The setting is at times confusing and the inconsistency of accents distracting. The work of John Foreman and Anthony Costanzo (both wrote music and lyrics) however, lifts the show to another level. Together with Kate Miller-Heidke (additional music and lyrics), the songs and music arrangements soar in the tradition of a classic Broadway production. Tuneful, memorable, and crossing multiple styles, almost every number was met with thunderous applause. Again, perhaps some trimming here would be beneficial. There are moments when there is little time for the performers or audience to catch a breath before the next number takes off.
The production has a very Disneyesque feeling or mood, most noticeable at the start with ‘Once Upon a Time’ featuring the full company and with the rousing ‘You Only Live Once’, and ‘Why Can’t I’ at the close of Act One. The music styles seem influenced by many recent popular musicals, from Beauty and the Beast to Wicked and even Les Miserables – or perhaps this can be seen as a nod or tribute to their legacy.
Murphy and Mushin have staged the production well, given that they don’t have the budget of say Wicked to play with. While the set may not have the grandeur that it deserves, Trudy Dalgleish’s lighting design brilliantly makes scenes sparkle and illustrates how important dynamic theatrical lighting can be.
...a welcome addition to the musical theatre landscape and should please most lovers of the genre
Relative new-comers Brianna Bishop (Ella) and Thomas McGuane (The Prince) shine and complement each other in their leading roles. Both graduated quite recently, in 2017, and prove that they have a bright future in musical theatre. With fine singing voices and strong performances, their charm and chemistry play a vital part in the show’s success.
Shane Jacobson (The King) and Lucy Durack (Mrs Lillicroft/Ms Madrina) are seasoned crowd-pleasers and make the most of their on-stage moments. Verity Hunt-Ballard is terrific as the horrid stepmother (Madame Bellington) – although at times she seems to be channelling Mrs Lovett from Sweeney Todd, while Matt Lee (Andre/Mr Abernathy) has a lot of fun with his comic roles.
The principal cast are ably complimented by Raphael Wong (Father), Kristie Nguy (Rosalie Bellington), Melanie Bird (Tiffany Bellington), and Alberta Brudman, Liv Jacobson, Isobel Lauber and Elisha Villa who share the role of Stella, the Narrator. Lauber performed the role at this performance.
The company is supplemented by a band of seven musicians in the pit, ably led by Musical Supervisor/Director Anthony Barnhill, who manage to add a rich, vibrant sound to the score. One can only hope that a cast album will be recorded so that audiences can savour the show’s music.
While the show could benefit from some revision and edits, Midnight is a welcome addition to the musical theatre landscape and should please most lovers of the genre.
Ella Brianna Bishop
Ms Madrina Lucy Durack
Prince Thomas McGuane
The King Shane Jacobson
Madame Bellington Verity Hunt-Ballard
Andre Matt Lee
Rosalie Bellington Kristie Nguy
Tiffany Bellington Melanie Bird
Father Raphael Wong
Stella Alberta Brudan
Stella Liv Jacobson
Stella Isobel Lauber
Stella Elisha Villa
Princess of Veronia Alessandra Merlo
Emperor/Cloverbelli Lyall Brooks
Ensemble Andrew Dunne
Ensemble Luisa Scrofani
Ensemble Claire Stubs
Ensemble Conor Putland
Ensemble Dean Schulz
Ensemble Sarah Louise Younger
On Stage Swing/Dance Captain Lochlan Erard
On Stage Swing Stephanie John
On Stage Swing Adriana Pannuzzo
On Stage Swing Benoit Vari
MUSIC & LYRICS John Foreman
MUSIC & LYRICS Anthony Costanzo
ADDITIONAL MUSIC AND LYRICS Kate Miller-Heidke
CHOREOGRAPHER Kelly Aykers
BOOK | DIRECTION Dean Murphy
BOOK | DIRECTION Pip Mushin
MUSICAL DIRECTOR/ARRANGER Anthony Barnhill
COSTUME DESIGNER Harriet Oxley
LIGHTING DESIGNER Trudy Dalgleish
SET DESIGNER James Browne
PRODUCER Spencer McLaren
PRODUCER Craig Donnell