Bianca Bruce and Matilda Moran are the Stepsisters of RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA

It’s possible! Rodgers and Hammerstein’s delightful production of Cinderella is opening in just one month!

The show was originally written for television in 1957, starring Julie Andrews in the lead role. It has since seen great success, being remade for television in 1965 and 1997 (the legendary Brandy and Whitney Houston version), as well as being adapted into a full-scale Broadway musical in 2013. Now, R&H’s magic is waltzing down under, playing in Melbourne from May before visiting Brisbane and Sydney later in the year.

But where would Cinderella be without her stepsisters?

Enter: Bianca Bruce and Matilda Moran. The pair play stepsisters Charlotte and Gabrielle, and are absolutely thrilled to be working together on such an iconic and beautiful piece of theatre. Gabrielle is at first more aligned with her materialistic mother and sister, but her kindness and thoughtful nature emerge as she is affected by Ella and falls in love with poor revolutionary Jean-Michel. Meanwhile, Charlotte is loud, brash, deeply self-involved, and delights in being cocky.

Bianca Bruce and Matilda Moran

Bianca is beyond excited to be joining the cast of Cinderella. Most recently, she has been seen in the role of Pam in the 2020/2021 Australian tour of 50 Shades! The Musical Parody (David Venn Enterprises) and in the critically acclaimed Music of the Night – The Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Spears Entertainment. Previously, Bianca has also appeared as Camila in the Australian Premiere cast of In The Heights (StageArt), CC Di Montez in the immersive theatre experience Mad World (David Butler Studios), featured as the Female Cover in Falsettos (StageArt), and as Ethel in Memphis the Musical (StageArt).

Matilda graduated from WAAPA in 2015 with a Bachelor of Music Theatre, and has since performed in New York as a recipient of the Bound for Broadway ASCAP/TDP scholarship, as well as touring Australia, Shanghai, and Singapore with WB Productions/Mark Bradley International. In 2020, Matilda was cast in Gordon Frost/Opera Australia’s The Secret Garden as Alice and Lily/Rose cover, and featured as Fantine in Les Miserables. She was a semi-finalist in the Rob Guest Endowment and has played Gussie Carnegie in Merrily We Roll Along (Little Triangle), Kate Mullins in Titanic: The Musical (StageArt), and Patty Simcox in The Original Grease (Squabbalogic).

Were either of you familiar with the show before starting rehearsals?

Bianca: I was definitely aware of this particular iteration of it, because it had been I just missed it when I had been on a trip to New York – it was it was just about to open. But one of my favourite made for TV specials when I was a child was the Brandy and Whitney Houston version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. I remember taping it off of the TV and wearing out the VHS just because I loved it so much, it really was just such a joyous production. That one in particular just really sold me on it. So when I heard that it was being made into a full scale musical, of course I was incredibly excited and very disappointed to have not been able to see it Broadway version but you know, as luck would have it… here we are!

Matilda: I’m the opposite! I still haven’t seen the Brandy version, I need to watch it… I was more into the Disney movie growing up, loved all the Disney princesses and loved Cinderella. And then, on Spotify, the soundtrack [for the R&H production] pops up in 2013, I think it was. And then I knew it from there, and really loved it and thought “this sounds a bit different, but still, has classic songs in it.” But all the new ones are really beautiful.

Bianca and Matilda with Tina Bursill | Photo by David Hooley

Do you see any of yourselves in Gabrielle and Charlotte?

Matilda: We’re both smiling because we have very different answers [laughs]. Gabrielle is probably the most natural a character has come to me. She’s a klutz and she’s goofy, and she doesn’t really think before she speaks, and she very much goes with her heart, even though it gets her into a lot of trouble. But there’s definitely a lot of me in her, so I’m excited to go and like, live out that fun, childlike part of myself every night. But I know Bianca’s a bit different. I remember when I was practicing lines with my best mate just before the auditions, we finished reading through them and he burst out laughing and said “Oh, it’s so beautiful. You don’t have to act like a dork, you are a dork!” [laughing].

Bianca: Well, Charlotte is a very strong willed person, and I think maybe she believes in herself just a little bit too much… but in a way, I very much aspire to believe in myself as much as Charlotte does. I’m personally a little bit more self affronting and don’t back myself in the way that Charlotte does, but she just believes that she deserves the world and is going to go out there and get what she wants. I think she’s definitely inherited her mother’s ambition, but maybe lacks her cunning and a bit of tact. She’s just very loud and brash [laughs]. And on my side of things, I’m definitely a little bit more reserved and I like to hold my tongue a little bit more. I think Charlotte’s probably the the version of me that I would like to be, except I would like to also be kind at the same time.

What I think is really unique about this Cinderella story is that so many of the roles are deep and complex, not just the leads. It particularly stands out to me that all the characters have a great sense of agency around their choices. How have you found working with the text?

Matilda: You get definitely get a feel that everybody has their own independent lives happening at the same time, and while we’re we’re really focusing in on one particular storyline, there is this richness of life happening behind the scenes that we’re not necessarily seeing. In this particular version, The Stepsisters’ Lament is not so much them picking on Cinderella, but it’s more “there’s something wrong here that we’re not addressing” as opposed to picking apart Cinderella and tearing her down. They’ve got their flaws and it sort of drives where they end up. But I like that the women are active in this version. It makes it a much more interesting watch.

Bianca: It definitely feels like there is a world behind this story. And it’s not even the way the show starts or how our characters first appear – it’s not the start of the story, you can tell that there’s already been a lot going on there that’s built them up to this level of whatever they’re feeling at the time. It’s very different for everybody, but you’re definitely getting like an insight into the whole fantasy land that exists whenever it was set, which makes it really cool. I think one of the things that you mentioned, how all of the characters have a lot more agency… We’re so used to fairy tales where all the women have to be rescued and all of that, but it doesn’t happen in this. All of the women kind of know what their trajectory is, and they know what they want and they put a plan in place and try and go about it. They’re very active. There’s a lot of choice involved, and that’s one of the things that I think contemporary audiences are really going to enjoy in this particular version. Cinderella is not victim to a storyline, the stepsisters and the stepmother aren’t evil and two dimensional. There’s very real reasons why everybody is the way that they are. And I feel like by the end of the story, we’re all going to feel pretty satisfied with everyone’s trajectory throughout the show.

Madame, Charlotte, Gabrielle, and Ella from the original Broadway cast of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Do you have a favourite song from the show?

Bianca: I feel like I’m a little bit biased in my answer, but I really, really love “A Lovely Night”. It’s sort of this moment where the entire household that Cinderella and the step sisters and mother live in come together, the past things that have happened are put to the wayside, just for them to have this moment of pure imagination and joy and glee. They come together and enjoy each others’ presence just for what it is, which I think is a really lovely thing to see. It helps the complexity of the show, I think, in that way.

Matilda: I agree that’s that’s probably my favourite song to listen to, but bias again. But my other favourite is “The Stepsisters’ Lament” which I don’t even get to be in. But it’s so fun, and it’s like classic Rodgers and Hammerstein vibes the whole way through, I love it. I can’t wait to hear Bianca sing it because it’s so fun.

Why should audiences come and see Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella?

Bianca: I think Cinderella is your real classic tale. We all love a Cinderella story. And as Australians, we love the story of an underdog – so who’s a bigger underdog than Cinderella? It’s definitely got everything that you want: you’ve got lavish ball gowns, you’ve got the beautiful scoring… But really, it’s a story about kindness, and it’s a story about all the beautiful, beautiful things that can happen when you stay true to yourself and stick to what you believe and speak up. I think that’s something that modern audiences are really going to get behind. It’s a wonderful family show, so bring everybody along.

Matilda: It’s one of the most immersive musicals that you’ll see in terms of all those beautiful production elements you’re going to have, plus the beautiful music. And it’s really funny! That’s one of the things not a lot of people know about this one – the script is was rewritten in 2013, and it’s quite funny. So even if all the beautiful stage elements and songs and ball gowns aren’t your thing, come along for a laugh. We’ve had a pretty average two years, and it’s such a nice way to break out of it with this fantasy world that you can live in and just have a good time.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella opens at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre from May 20.

For tickets and more information, visit the Cinderella Musical Australia website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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