By Ty Whiting
Ballet West‘s Cinderella, with choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton and music by Sergei Prokofiev, is one of my favorite versions of the classic fairytale. Upon entering the house, I was greeted by a tangible energy buzzing about. Everyone else was just as excited as I was. From the moment the orchestra, conducted by Tara Simoncic, hits the first chord, Cinderella leaves you intrigued and wanting more. The story starts with the stepsisters, Beau Pearson and Christopher Ruud, embroidering a beautiful blue fabric. Upon realizing they have to share, the Father (Tyler Gum) rips the fabric in two, preventing a fight. The moment the stepsisters come to life on stage the giggles hit me. There is nothing in the art world like a tall guy portraying a demure young lady.
Cinderella (Arolyn Williams) dances with impeccable technique. Arolyn fully emotes the story through her action and her ability to slightly change her body language. After being left in the kitchen of her home, Cinderella dances a duet with the family broom, grabbing along the way a lost piece of the embroidered fabric. In a burst of energy, her sisters and father reappear with courtesans in tow. The hilarity ensues with the stepsisters trying on various accoutrement in an effort to hide their alopecia. Throughout this tableau, I was greeted with one skilled soloist after the next. A standout of this sequence for me was Alexander MacFarlan. He dances with such incredible power, peppered with grace and control, it looks effortless. The way MacFarlan dances left me speechless, feeling like I had just witnessed a moment that can never be recreated.
After the previous tableau, the story goes from bright colors and happy fun moments to the loneliness of a daughter living with the loss of her mother. The lighting design (Michael Mazzola) here in particular made me feel like I too had lost someone close to me. The creative use of the fixtures and how they cast the shadows gives an ethereal feeling to a heart-shattering moment. The story doesn’t spend much time here, just enough to leave me verklempt. To wash away the sorrow, in comes the Fairy Godmother (Emily Adams) complete with glitter and a dazzling costume. The Fairy Godmother introduces us to the Fairies of the seasons (Sayaka Ohtaki, Beckann Sisk, Katherine Lawrence, and Allison DeBona) all dancing in front of exquisitely painted scenery. When the Fairy Godmother works her magic and turns a pumpkin into a carriage, I audibly gasped– the magic of theatre produced the carriage that looks at once royal but also completely fantastic. She then explains Cinderella must leave by the stroke of midnight. As the curtain dropped I was left wanting more and feeling like the show had only started fifteen minutes ago.
Act II starts with a fabulous solo given by the Jester (Christopher Sellars). Sellars dances with such authority and presence you can’t help but be enamored by the sheer talent. The Jester wound up being my absolute favorite part of the evening and if applause is anything to gauge off of, the audience agreed. We move from the Jester to the full company performing a bizarre but very satisfying waltz. At first I was confused, but the longer I watched the more it made sense. Your eye is drawn all over, showcasing yet another incredibly intricate set. Enter the stepsisters, suddenly on the prowl for husbands. Two suitors appear (Joshua Whitehead and Ronald Tilton) I was again greeted with some much needed comedic relief after the heavy moments in Act I.
About midway through the waltz the Prince’s (Rex Tilton) friends show up. Danced by Kyle Davis, Hadriel Diniz, Trevor Nauman and, Jordan Veit, these four men commanded the stage and seemed to command every other aspect of the moment, which was made even better by the addition of the fairies. The entire company again is present to finish out the waltz. Once concluded, Cinderella appears, donned in a beautiful tutu rhinestoned from head to toe, complete with what seemed to be thirty yards of fabric for a cape. The amount of work that had to have gone in the costume design for this show must have been incredible. That being said, I didn’t feel Cinderella’s cape added to the performance. I thought it detracted from Williams’s beautiful technique and poise on stage.
The costumes designed by the late David Walker, are a masterclass in how to fully complete a staged production. The amount of detail on each garment shone from the stage to the very back row. A blend of velvet’s rich textures and heavy silks’ incredible luster all combine with lightweight movable fabrics really helped transport me into the fantasy.
The story moves into the Prince falling in love with Cinderella. This takes place in the form of a pas de deux, a splendid example of the talent Ballet West has curated. This moment in Cinderella is set to the recurring theme heard in the overture, tying the mysterious and compelling music back to the beginning of the performance. Entranced with her Prince, Cinderella forgets the warning about being done by midnight. Chaos ensues as she tries to get away, leaving a single bejeweled slipper on the stairs. It was at this point there was another intermission.
Act III begins with a solo for Cinderella, dancing again with the family broom. She thinks she has had a dream and expresses her sorrow at the night not being real. From her apron the remaining sparkly slipper is found, telling her she lived through all her dreams. The Prince shows up, searching through his kingdom for the owner of the slipper. He finds himself at the home of Cinderella and her family. Each of the stepsisters tries her hardest to make her foot fit. One of them motioning for Cinderella to help. As Cinderella rushes to her sister’s aid, the matching shoe falls from her apron. Understandably, the entire house and all those in it appear shocked.
Reuniting with is true love, the Prince motions to Cinderella and they leave the house. Before they can get away, there is a really sweet moment between the sisters. Two of them knowing how unkind they’ve been to her and Cinderella forgiving them with a kiss on each cheek. The story culminates in the marriage of the Prince and Cinderella, officiated by the Fairy Godmother, tying all the elements together.
Directed and staged by Wendy Ellis Somes and Malin Thoors, Cinderella is thoroughly charming and quite magical.
I was thoroughly entertained by Cinderella and I have a few tips for anyone who sees this show:
- Get there early, the seats are infamous for being uncomfortable and you’ll want first dibs at an extra cushion.
- Dress in layers, meaning, dress for cold outside, but for warmth inside. By the end of Act II it was sweltering with no relief in sight.
- I would recommend going the extra step and dressing up a bit more than you usually would. It really adds to the atmosphere.
If you have a chance to see the enthralling masterpiece of Ballet West’s Cinderella at the Capitol Theatre, I encourage you to take it. The athleticism of the performers is unrivaled by any other profession. This show is great for families but leave your small children at home. The length of the ballet is something someone 8+ could handle.
Ballet West presents Cinderella with choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton and music by Sergei Prokofiev
Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, 50 W 200 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
February 10-25, 2018 7:30 PM Matinees at 2:00 PM on 2/10, 2/16, 2/17, and 2/24
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