This week is a good week to stage an ice dancing show. The Winter Olympics has pulled in record viewers for its figure skating competition, while ITV’s Dancing on Ice is as popular as ever. Small wonder, then, the Royal Albert Hall was packed for the opening night of the UK visit of the Imperial Ice Stars and their family-friendly Cinderella on Ice.
The predominantly Russian troupe are not quite in the Olympic medal winner league, but all its ice dancers are able and some are extremely good. Olga Sharuntenko as Cinders and Andrey Penkin as her prince fully deserve their leading roles.
The two-hour show also has tastefully low-key costumes (rare in ice dancing which tends to feature Spandex, Lycra and lurex), plus nicely made video projections which provide a visual narrative to the Cinderella story. There’s also a live (if aver-amplified) orchestra and a good sized space for the skaters to show off their moves.
Director Tony Mercer’s on-ice version of the fairytale includes several story lines you may not recognize, including Cinderella being a young ballet dancer and winning the heart of her prince (in this case the son of the town mayor) by dancing Swan Lake at the last minute when the lead dancer (who is also one of her stepsisters) goes off injured. There's also muddled interplay between her father and his extended family.
These extra elements don’t matter – it’s a fairytale after all – but they do rather slow the action. More of a drawback is the inclusion of various spectacular effects, such as wire flying, acrobatics and Irish dancing on ice. The Irish dancing is especially confusing as, apart from showing off the ice-dancers' nimble footwork, there's no logic for it in the Cinderella story.
And this reveals the indecision at the heart of the show. Is this Cinderella simply the fairytale performed on skates, or a spectacular show along the lines of Cirque de Soleil with only a passing resemblance to Cinders?
Either would work, but the production can’t decide what it wants to be. This is a shame because the skaters are pulled in too many directions, and can’t get on with what they do best which is to make nice shapes on ice.