Here is my condensed milk review of the Cinderella I attended last night. The highlight for moi was the Ballet Talk hosted by former Principal dancer, Jennifer Fournier
-Despite sprinkling a few too many “you knows” throughout her speech. I was going to ask her how she made it up the steep 4 Seasons stairs in her très chic and very HOT stilettos but thought better with all the kiddies there and fear of her blushing several shades of red...never mind myself! Anyway, she looked good....real good.
What impressed me most was her passion for ballet, humour, and insider view of what goes on behind the scenes. Her wit was dry as a martini, as she revealed how Mr. K asked her to become an ugly stepsister...not exactly what every ballerina dreams to be! J.F.
has gone back to school to study history among other things and no doubt will assume a more prominent role with the National or another arts organization in the future.
As for Cinderella, I’ve seen the production many times before and yet I still see new aspects to the ballet. For this viewing I appreciated the creatures of the garden more along with all the various fashion footwear during the ‘Around the World’ scene. Sonia Rodriguez was very lovely as Cinderella and Tanya Howard was almost too lovely as one of the ugly stepsisters. The dancer who absolutely stole the show was Rebekah Rimsay
, in her 20th year with the National, as ‘the bespectacled other’ ugly stepsister! She was so bad; she was good! R.R. gives new meaning to the adjective, nerdy! My kudos to the entire company for not breaking down on stage every time Rebekah danced...in tears of laughter! BRAVO!
Cinderella is a must see and Kudelka’s best ballet. My only real criticism is the music, especially in Act 1, which was obviously commissioned to Sergei Prokofiev, to be performed for a traditional fairy tale rendition. It is far too depressing in the opening act. Below is my review when the ballet premiered.
Kudelka’s Cinderella Extreme Makeover!
Dance Maestro James Kudelka almost choreographed the impossible-camouflaging a Prokofiev musical score far too sardonic for a fairy tale ballet through innovative steps, stunning costumes, eye-opening lighting, and a down to earth set. This production of Cinderella was choreographed with wow and hearty guffaws galore! The ballet still cries out to be scored anew but this version is more than acceptable. This is a Cinderella that will tour Canada-and maybe just maybe the world!
Mr. K’s Creative Spirit must have been soaring during the ballet making process as his Muse magically transformed a previously clichéd Cinderella upside down and inside out! Goodbye henpecked hubby; Hello (flash!) Photo Journalist. Goodbye carriage; Look out for a pumpkin UFO descending from the heavens to whisk Cinderella to the ball! Goodbye horsy; See our prince travel ‘round the world via plane and boat searching for the seraph whose tootsies will slip into that glittering glass slipper! The background lighting simulating whooshing cerulean skies was absolutely breathtaking! Goodbye golden timekeepers; Hello Dancing Pumpkin Heads! Adios dusty old costumes; Go starry-eyed over jazzy art deco inspired duds! Ever present throughout the ballet is James Kudelka paying homage to Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker, and Martin Crane in the rather rustic form of Cinderella’s antique chair. Despite the well preserved chair and delicious preserves from Cinderella’s garden, this Cinderella IS modernized. One trip to this Kudelkaized Cindertale and you’ll mothball your memories of Ben Stevenson’s and Sir Frederick Ashton’s antique creations right back into the fabled age of once upon a time—where they belong!
The National Ballet of Canada had been without its own Cinderella since 1973 when a fire destroyed most of the costumes. That version, choreographed by then Artistic Director Celia Franca, received mixed reviews in only 13 performances. From those ashes and cobwebbed, dusty history James Kudelka has restored Cinderella to modern times without sacrificing any of its fabled romantic past. The Keno twin brothers from the antique show Find! would be smiling and so will the National’s cash registers: Ka-Ching!
The true genius of James Kudelka is his ability to use every member of his company (from senior character actors to corps de ballet dancers to soloists to principals) and make them ALL shine! Victoria Bertram played the part of a bathtub gin swilling shnockered step mother to such pickled perfection, I was genuinely worried she might be pulled over for drinking and driving home after her spirited show stopping Gloria Swanson/Norma Desmond like performance! NBoC pointe shoe mistress Lorna Geddes glowed as she magically poofed from the cinders of the fireplace to save Cinderella from her stepsister slavery and thus the Prince from his slavery to the upper crust of hoity-toityville. Veteran character actor Hazaros Surmeyan played the part of a celeb photo journalist with too much integrity to be a Paparazzi picture stealer but not too much integrity not to steal a few scenes! Despite his best efforts, he never did get a snapshot of Prince Charming with his Cinderella. It’s impossible not to LOL at out-of-stepsisters Stephanie Hutchinson and Lise-Marie Jourdain going totally gaga as they throw themselves head-over-heels in lust at the handsome Prince Charming (Patrick Lavoie).
As for Heather Ogden’s performance as Cinderella, she danced barefoot, she danced with one pointe shoe, she danced with two pointe shoes, she danced her socks and pointe shoes off! Heather Ogden was a ballerina siren-poetry in motion. Her spirit more entrancing than any old Northern Light; Not even Aurora Borealis could match the steps of this dancing delight! Yes, this is a brand new 150% improved Cinderella! She can cook, she can garden, she can keep house better than Martha Stewart, and of course, this Cinderella can DANCE!
I played hooky from work to see the Thursday matinée performance, and needless to say, I along with the rest of the audience gave this production a standing ‘O’ leaving with a smile a mile wide! It was that good! Now, if only Kudelka could raise the funds to rewrite the score? Perhaps, Cinderella will be scored anew with a gelling of jazz á la Michel Legrand with classical music. One role I would like to see resurrected was that of the court jester, which would provide Philip Lau and Daisuke Ohno a chance to show off their high flying ballet moves. Next go around; don’t be surprised if Cinderella’s out-of-step-sisters also get a Swan like makeover including botox injections and leg wax! Although the lighting kept everyone’s eyes glued to the action on stage, I would love to see Act 2 end by spotlighting the glass slipper in the middle of the stage.
This was a Formula One paced Cinderella with few opportunities for needless interruptions by applause. I always thought it best to show appreciation at the end of an act. The ending was perfect, finding heaven in the comfort of Cinderella’s garden, Prince Charming rests his head in the lap of Cinderella. No doubt, there would be a very long line up to spend eternity in wedlock with the lovely Heather Ogden. Once Kudelka and his dancers work out the kinks with more opportunities to dance this Jazzed up Cinderella, it will get even better! If I haven’t already made myself 150% clear, I highly recommend you step out of once upon a time and see this modern down-to-earth Cinderella!
Dancers: 18/20. Choreography: 18/20. Ballet Magic: 18/20. Costumes, Sets & Lighting: 19/20. Story: 8/10. Music: 7/10. Rating: 88/100.