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American Ballet Theatre: Cinderella 2014
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American Ballet Theatre: Cinderella 2014

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American Ballet Theatre

Cinderella 2014
Ballet in Three Acts

Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Chief Executive Officer
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa, Keith Roberts
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
James Timm, Director of Marketing and Brand Management
Susan Morgan Taylor, Manager of Press and Online Media

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 14, 2014

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Cinderella (1948): Choreography by Frederick Ashton, Production directed, supervised, and staged by Wendy Ellis Somes and Malin Thoors, Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Set and costume design by David Walker, Lighting design by Brad Fields.

Cast on June 13, 2014:

Conductor: David LaMarche, Performed by Julie Kent as Cinderella, Marcelo Gomes as The Prince, Kenneth Easter and Thomas Forster as Cinderella’s Step-Sisters, Grant DeLong as Cinderella’s Father, Stella Abrera as The Fairy Godmother, Eric Tamm as The Dancing Master, Antoine Silverman and Encho Todorov as Two Fiddlers, Duncan Lyle as A Tailor, Claire Davison and Courtney Lavine as Dressmakers, Luis Ribagorda as The Shoemaker, Gabe Stone Shayer as The Hairdresser, Patrick Frenette as A Jeweler, Sarah Lane as The Fairy Spring, Isabella Boylston as The Fairy Summer, Misty Copeland as The Fairy Autumn, April Giangeruso as The Fairy Winter, Craig Salstein as The Jester, Pascal Knopp and Sean Stewart as Suitors, and the Company as Stars, The Prince’s Friends, Courtiers, Pages, Coachmen, Mice, and Guests at the Ball.

Cast on June 14, 2014:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins, Performed by Gillian Murphy as Cinderella, David Hallberg as The Prince, Craig Salstein and Roman Zhurbin as Cinderella’s Step-Sisters, Clinton Luckett as Cinderella’s Father, Stella Abrera as The Fairy Godmother, Sterling Baca as The Dancing Master, Antoine Silverman and Encho Todorov as Two Fiddlers, Grant DeLong as A Tailor, Alexandra Basmagy and Brittany DeGrofft as Dressmakers, Patrick Frenette as The Shoemaker, Sean Stewart as The Hairdresser, Jose Sebastian as A Jeweler, Skylar Brandt as The Fairy Spring, Christine Shevchenko as The Fairy Summer, Yuriko Kajiya as The Fairy Autumn, Melanie Hamrick as The Fairy Winter, Luis Ribagorda as The Jester, Thomas Forster and Arron Scott as Suitors, and the Company as Stars, The Prince’s Friends, Courtiers, Pages, Coachmen, Mice, and Guests at the Ball.

Once again, on the heels of the new staging and scenery of Manon, a new production of Cinderella greeted us this week, the Ashton version. With the audience as a barometer, it clearly did not “ooh” and “ah” as it did so many times for Kudelka’s Cinderella, for this writer a certain favorite. As Ballet Theatre borrowed sets and costumes for Manon from Houston Ballet, it borrowed sets and costumes for this Cinderella from The Joffrey Ballet, and these, too, seemed pulled from a basement or attic, faded, one-dimensional, dark, undistinguished. Specifically, in the Kudelka version, Cinderella lifts objects from a painted cupboard to dust and can climb among its shelves. Here the cupboards were dark painted backdrops, almost the appearance of cardboard in their flat, thin imagery. Yet, the Ashton version did have some grand surprises, comic and storybook, and it does have its worth, although this is a cute, campy ballet built around the conniving, cruel step-sisters in drag, rather than built around the quiet, romanticized Cinderella who gets the Prince. In fact, I kept thinking this ballet should have been named Cinderella’s Step-Sisters.

I caught two casts, with Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes as Cinderella and the Prince on June 13 and Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg in the roles on the 14th. Seeing Ms. Kent and Mr. Gomes together here was painful, as I remembered the exuberance and extravagance of their first performance in the Kudelka version, especially with Ms. Kent being lowered onto the stage in a giant, bright, velvety pumpkin with endless ribbons, and Mr. Gomes in a hilariously clever search around the globe for the owner of the second glass slipper. Here I was concerned that Ms. Kent would slip down a short flight of steps into the ballroom, and the Prince’s search was pedestrian at best. Their pas de deux are always dynamic and elegant, connected and persuasive, and usually virtuosic. Tonight was no exception, although the choreography against the bland backdrops was mostly nondescript. Yet, a star-lit sky did bring in memorable visions. Ms. Murphy was muscularly strong in her ballroom, stairway entrance, surely balanced, with more personality, but, alas, Mr. Hallberg, the quintessential Prince, seemed a bit distracted, perhaps a strained muscle or two, with his extraordinary schedule between New York and Moscow. His experience with the Bolshoi has given him a regal poise, an aura of ardor, a taut physique. Yet, tonight, he and Ms. Murphy seemed secondary to the vaudevillian Step-Sisters, who created balletic burlesque, over the top, with lengthy scenes that seized the stage.

On the 13th, Kenneth Easter and Thomas Forster seemed amateurish Step-Sisters in drag, compared to Craig Salstein and Roman Zhurbin in the same roles on the 14th. Seeing two casts on two consecutive nights made it all the easier to compare and contrast. I imagined an all new ballet built around the Salstein-Zhurbin duo, as they were truly highlighted much more than was the underused Cinderella. She swept, she cleaned, she mused, she dreamed, but these Step-Sisters were omnipresent and outlandish. Mr. Salstein’s character chased the various men who arrived to prepare them for the ball, and he was incredible in this camp dramatization, as was Mr. Zhurbin, who fussed and fumed and bumbled about. Their dual mime, again, would be a great short ballet or the premise for an entirely new story ballet. Pascal Knopp and Sean Stewart on the 13th and Thomas Forster and Aaron Scott on the 14th were the Suitors, who were mostly lost in the busy mayhem. Mr. Scott was most engaging. Two Fiddlers, Antoine Silverman and Encho Todorov, on both nights, were actual violin extras, who blended seamlessly in the crowd.

In Ashton’s Cinderella there’s no Stepmother, but there is Cinderella’s father, Grant DeLong on the 13th and Clinton Luckett on the 14th. The father is a minor, weak role here, and with the dreary sets and costume, the character seemed negligible. Stella Abrera was the Fairy Godmother on both nights, and she sparkled with scintillating eloquence. She’s grown tremendously in balance and presence, in the past couple of years, a true gem in the Company. Specific to the Ashton version are the seasonal Fairies, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Of the eight listed in the two evening’s casts, Skylar Brandt caught my eye on the 14th in Fairy Spring, and Misty Copeland caught my eye on the 13th in Fairy Autumn. These Fairies bounce onto the stage as if on coil springs. One almost expects them to fly, and their presence is a welcome addition to glamorize a very layered production. Of the secondary roles of Dancing Master, Tailor, Dressmakers, Shoemaker, Hairdresser, and Jeweler, who rush about the hearth and table to prepare the Step-Sisters for the Prince’s ball, Eric Tamm was a striking Dancing Master on the 13th, and Luis Ribagorda was a theatrical Shoemaker. The Corps was exceptional, as always, in ensemble dance as Stars and Courtiers.

The rich Prokofiev score is among my favorites of all ballet scores, and on the 13th David LaMarche made it come alive, especially in the Prince’s ballroom at the palace, before and during the midnight striking of the clock. Here the borrowed scenery worked, with a shiny, transparent gold clock, moving second by second with the orchestra’s percussion. This score is magnetic, gripping, and memorable. It deserves at the very least a brand new production with brand new sets, costumes, and a more ravishing role for its title character, Cinderella. Or, bring back Kudelka. Kudos to the Company.

Julie Kent and Marcelo Gomes in
Frederick Ashton's "Cinderella"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Gillian Murphy and David Hallberg in
Frederick Ashton's "Cinderella"
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at