The year is 1940, the setting a drab, war-ravaged London. It seems an unlikely place for a classic fairytale to unfold, but it's nothing some ever-masterful storytelling from Matthew Bourne won't fix.
Wartime austerity and Hollywood glitz, as well as theatre and cinema, merge together in this dazzling neo-classical ballet, which opened to a packed Sheffield Lyceum last night (Tuesday, May 15).
The skeleton of the original Grimm fairytale still stands- a timid, bespectacled Cinderella (Ashley Prince) tends to her ailing veteran father (Alan Vincent) under the gaze of her 'wicked stepmother' (Madelaine Brennan) and the taunts of her spoilt stepsiblings.
Change and magic is afoot when Cinders is visited The Angel (Liam Mower), who introduces her to Prince Charming- a handsome but shellshocked pilot named Harry (Andrew Monaghan).
Bourne's contemporary approach allows for a whole host of comical character creations you wouldn't find in a more traditional ballet, and the production is also peppered with references to classic film. Liam Mower's Angel oozes with the effortless grace of Fred Astaire and Brennan's vivacious, booze-quaffing Stepmother is an unmistakable nod to Joan Crawford.
Costumes and set have to be seen to be believed- in two and a half hours, we are transported through the Blitz-ridden streets of central London, to an underground station bustling with prostitutes and pickpockets, to the Heavens themselves complete with pumpkin-turned-motorbike that cuts through the clouds to deliver our heroine to the party in style.
The audience gasped in unison during the show's pièce de résistance- the ball scene at the ill-fated Café de Paris in which a transformed Cinders emerges Ginger Rogers like in a glittering silver gown. In this story, midnight brings with it not only the familiar call for Cindrella to return to her normal, joyless life, but also the infamous air raid that destroyed the real-life nightclub in 1941.
Catch Cinderella at Sheffield's Lyceum theatre until this Saturday (May 19).
Buy tickets here: https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/matthew-bournes-cinderella