Two Annoying Sisters
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Cinderella”
Saturday, 5 February 2010
by Dean Speer
My, how things have changed. It used to be Cinderella and her wicked stepmother and her two ugly stepsisters. Now it’s Cinderella and her impatient and slightly mean, but very vain, stepmother and her two demanding, bratty and annoying stepsisters. In some versions of the story Cinderella’s father is an absent figure; in this one, he’s around but ineffective until he says enough is enough and takes Cinderella’s broom and threatens to swat the various “steps” and puts them into their place.
Doing the right thing is at the heart and soul of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s revival of their 1994 version. Doing the right thing – taking in, warming and feeding a ragged beggar woman – is the catalyst for the protagonist’s Fairy Godmother to reveal herself and coming to her aid when she longs to go to the prince’s ball but has neither permission (in this version), power, nor the means to do so.
She aids her in a big way: a magical carriage, gown, jewelry, and those glass slippers – in this case, shiny pointe shoes -- and off she goes, all wonder and excitement.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production is a very likeable one on many fronts – simple, clean, unfussy. Choreographer Kent Stowell focuses the attention where it needs to be and keeps the story moving. He give us: An elegant ballroom scene with a scarlet-clad handsome corps of waltzing dancers. A character who daydreams of the past and longs for and gets a better future. Speaking of the costumes – they are beautiful creations realized by the amazing and ever-ready PNB Costume Shop, designed by Martin Pakledinaz. PNB was lucky to have snagged him at the time – and now he’s famous, making designs for Broadway and the opera world wide.
The cast included some of my favorite PNB dancers – Carla Körbes as Cinderella; Ariana Lallone, who, as the Stepmother, was a hoot; Batkhurel Bold as the Prince; Jessika Anspach and Abby Relic acted up a storm as the two annoying stepsisters; Olivier Wevers as the father; and Laura Gilbreath as the Godmother. Other notables included James Moore as the Jester, whose turns [and jumps] – literally – got well-deserved shouts and bravos during his bow.
One of the stars of this production is the corps de ballet. This attractive mix of men and women are technically very impressive, sharp, secure, and move as an ensemble – among the hardest things to achieve not only in terms of counts but artistically breathing the same air and moving with the same altitude of thought. This said, they impressed, as a whole, of being slightly out of shape, more so in the men. Repertory begets levels of various layers and depth of competency and I’m confident that with more, not fewer, ballets that make full use of the entire corps, this level will be re-burnished as it has been in the not-too-distant past.
In Act II’s Theatre of Marvels, the Harlequin and Columbine duet with Lucien Postlewaite and Lesley Rausch was spot-on and one of the delights I had to be reminded about. Jerome Tisserand has incredibly beautiful line of leg – almost female – and it was this line that helped his characterization sense of being an Evil Sprite. I liked and was impressed by his concluding sauté a la seconde that dropped quickly while still in that pose to the floor for the ending “ta-dah!” A bravura deployment of his technique and skill.
The seasonal fairies each had a sprightly variation – Spring, Chalnessa Eames; Summer, Lesley Rausch; Autumn, Lindsi Dec; and Winter, Kylee Kitchens. Kitchens has developed the strength and look of her feet and length of leg over the years. I don’t know if this is exactly conscious on her part or not, or a result in the aggregate of dancing and the daily hard work all dancers put in, but her foot work and how it’s integrated look top-drawer.
The PNB School students in the production – bugs, the pumpkin clock children, and the liveried coach attendants – were naturally adorable, are nicely trained and coached, and added the right amount of cute and an ingredient to the story that was just right.
The sold-out house loved the show and everything about it, including the sweeping and programmatic score of Prokofiev, exuberantly played by the mighty PNB Orchestra under the watchful baton of newly-appointed Music Director, Emil de Cou.
Last edited by Dean Speer on Mon Feb 14, 2011 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.