American Ballet Theatre
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
July 4, 2015
(Read More ABT Reviews)
(See a Conversation with Conductor, David LaMarche, on this Season’s Ballet Music.)
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 July 1, 2015:
Conductor: David LaMarche
Performed by Stella Abrera as Cinderella, Joseph Gorak as The Prince, Sean Stewart and Duncan Lyle as Cinderella’s Step-Sisters, Clinton Luckett as Cinderella’s Father, Devon Teuscher as The Fairy Godmother, Blaine Hoven as The Dancing Master, Antoine Silverman and Encho Todorov as Two Fiddlers, Nathan Vendt as A Tailor, Claire Davison and Jin Zhang as Dressmakers, Connor Holloway as The Shoemaker, Joo Won Ahn as The Hairdresser, Jose Sebastian as A Jeweler, Sarah Lane as The Fairy Spring, Stephanie Williams as The Fairy Summer, Luciana Paris as The Fairy Autumn, April Giangeruso as The Fairy Winter, Gabe Stone Shayer as The Jester, Gray Davis and Kenneth Easter as Suitors, and the Company as Stars, The Prince’s Friends, Courtiers, Pages, Coachmen, Mice, and Guests at the Ball.
Cast on July 4, 2015:
Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins
Performed by Marianela Nuñez as Cinderella, James Whiteside as The Prince, Kenneth Easter and Thomas Forster as Cinderella’s Step-Sisters, Grant DeLong as Cinderella’s Father, Veronika Part as The Fairy Godmother, Zhiyao Zhang as The Dancing Master, Antoine Silverman and Encho Todorov as Two Fiddlers, Nathan Vendt as A Tailor, Scott Forsythe and Jin Zhang as Dressmakers, Connor Holloway as The Shoemaker, Sean Stewart as The Hairdresser, Patrick Frenette as A Jeweler, Sarah Lane as The Fairy Spring, Stephanie Williams as The Fairy Summer, Luciana Paris as The Fairy Autumn, April Giangeruso as The Fairy Winter, Craig Salstein as The Jester, Pascal Knopp and Arron Scott as Suitors, and the Company as Stars, The Prince’s Friends, Courtiers, Pages, Coachmen, Mice, and Guests at the Ball.
The 1948 Ashton production of Cinderella, with its sumptuous Prokofiev score, is really two ballets in one. One ballet is comic, with two stepsisters performed by male character dancer/actors, in high drag comedy, detailed with hand gestures in sewing and knitting and trying on wigs, shoes, and gowns. This essential “tale of Cinderella’s step-sisters” could really be reshaped as its own comedic ballet. Ashton had created the roles for himself and Robert Helpmann, in the original Royal Ballet cast. On July 1, Sean Stewart and Duncan Lyle danced the roles, and on July 4, Kenneth Easter and Thomas Forster danced the roles. All four Corps dancers were hugely entertaining, throughout, but distracting from the central romance of Cinderella and her Prince. The passive, dreary father, as he’s presented in Ashton’s version, was Clinton Luckett on the 1st and Grant DeLong on the 4th.
In Ballet Theatre’s run of James Kudelka’s 2006 Cinderella, the step-sisters (and step-mother in that version) were fluidly absorbed into a much more enchanting and captivating ballet. Seeing Julie Kent sitting right in front of me on the 1st, I reminded her how gorgeous she was, descending in Kudelka’s warmly lit, velvety pumpkin, with expansive ribbons. Ashton’s version, instead, has a tired, small pumpkin in the Act I preparation for the ballroom scene. The busyness of the Ashton ballet is further magnified by lengthy passages for four seasonal Fairies and twelve Stars. The ballet’s visual impact is minimized with its elusive, horse-drawn coach, that swings around once, then disappears, as well as Cinderella’s kitchen scenery, that could be the 1948 original. It made me long for Kudelka’s production. If only a choreographer could create a new Cinderella, less distracting and campy, more rapturous, with bright, new sets. I wonder who…
Now, for Cinderella and the Prince, the two stars of this ballet. In Act I, Scene 1, after a long vaudevillian Step-Sister scene, Cinderella, by the fire, in shabby gray, finally stands and springs to life. On the 1st, Stella Abrera was gorgeous, refined, and basking in her new promotion to Principal. Ms. Abrera is not a dancer that overwhelms the stage, but, rather, she enhances it with scintillating sophistication. The Act I kitchen scene gives her only brief moments in the dim, colorless set, twirling about with her broom. But, when the beggar woman turns into her Fairy Godmother (Devon Teuscher on the 1st and Veronika Part on the 4th), the choreography for Cinderella comes alive. There had been a trail of characters, Dancing Master, Fiddlers, Tailor, Dressmakers, Shoemaker, Hairdresser, and Jeweler, all Corps dancers, except the Fiddlers, actual violinists in wigs and costumes, and they were all eye-catching, although, again, the Step-Sisters were front and center throughout. When Cinderella is transformed for the Ball, all offstage, another disappointment (most version have her surrounded, as rags become riches, and pumpkin becomes coach), she suddenly arrives in the coach, for only the blink of an eye.
Finally, after the first intermission, and many, Act II, secondary character entrances, including an extraneous, jovial jester (Gabe Stone Shayer on the 1st and Craig Salstein on the 4th), the Prince arrives, Joseph Gorak, to partner Ms. Abrera. When he sees Cinderella en pointe, looking at the audience, walking down a few stairs and into his arms, there are a multitude of Friends, Suitors, and Courtiers, plus the Step-Sisters, Jester, and more, and the Pas de Deux seems overwhelmed. Yet, once the Pas de Deux takes on some intricate balancing, elongated torso stretches, and rapid, stage spins, one is swept into the moment. Unfortunately, the lighting was stark, and the central image of rapture not riveting, as in other Cinderella productions. Mr. Gorak is an ingénue Soloist, a sensational dancer, technically, but still working on theatrical persuasion. He seemed boyish, partnering the elegant, much more mature Ms. Abrera. Yet, their Pas de Deux in Acts II and III created charm, in their rapid whirling. Throughout the evening, Ms. Abrera shown brightly, with crisp, flawless footwork.
On July 4, Cinderella was danced by Guest Artist (from the Royal Ballet), Marianela Nuñez, who had performed, in the previous week, across the Plaza with The Royal in two ballets, introducing herself to star-struck, New York balletomanes. She was partnered by James Whiteside, in one of his finest performances to date, that I’ve been fortunate to see. They drew accolades at each turn. The Ashton ballet, once again, was filled with the multi-layers of secondary characters, who distract from romantic momentum, with the unfortunate addition of the jester in red, cavorting in camp. Ms. Nuñez spun weightlessly, with aplomb, captivating her Prince in his arms. Mr. Whiteside is mature, machismo, and nurturing. He expands his roles with psychological drama, a thrilling dimension. They popped out from the busy ballroom scene and drew the eye. As Fairy Godmothers, Ms. Teuscher, on the 1st, and Ms. Part, on the 4th, were luminescent and commanding. Of the four Fairies Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, the same cast each night, Luciana Paris, as the Fairy Autumn, and Stephanie Williams, as the Fairy Summer, were especially ebullient. The scenic layers that rise for each season, as the respective Fairy and attending characters enter the stage, are mesmerizing, but consume much time from Cinderella’s spotlight. Of the two Suitors, each night, Arron Scott, on the 4th, added some extra energy.
David LaMarche, on the 1st, and Ormsby Wilkins, on the 4th, kept Ballet Theatre Orchestra brimming with drama and the ticking clock, as midnight approached at the Ball. The Prokofiev score ran loops in my mind for hours.
Stella Abrera and Joseph Gorak
Courtesy of MIRA
Marianela Nuñez and James Whiteside
Courtesy of MIRA