Choreographed by Michael Corder; music by Sergei Prokofiev
English National Ballet
Palace Theatre, Manchester, and touring
As part of its 60th anniversary celebrations English National Ballet has revived their Laurence Olivier award winning 1996 Cinderella. This is the version by the celebrated choreographer Michael Corder and is danced to the melodic music of Prokofiev.
While there are no mice that turn into horsemen nor a pumpkin which transforms into a carriage the production loses nothing by the omissions.
In this telling of the classic tale Cinderella has a Father and they are both tormented by his wife her Stepmother and her two Stepsisters. All these character parts are danced with great wit and gusto and evoke much laughter from the audience. There is much use of haughty gestures and the occasional scowl.
This version retains many of the well loved elements but it is refreshing to see ballerinas dancing the step sisters. Adela Ramirez and Laura Bruna, who was making her debut in the role, have the right balance of humour and cruelty. Their wit and skill is most present in an early dance with the Dancing Master - a feisty Juan Rodgriguez - where they wrap themselves around him in cloying fashion. Their comic clumsiness was very skilful. Jane Howarth as the Stepmother offers a memorable blend of apparent charm and ruthless ambition and stalwart Michael Coleman lends the appropriate gravitas as Cinderella's Father.
Erina Takahashi as Cinderella manifests a grace and delicacy which can be playful or touching depending on the necessity of the plot. She has a waif-like quality whether showing her arabesque or dancing en pointe. She made a deservedly strong connection with the packed Palace Theatre audience. There is a wonderful chemistry between her and the Prince, Dmitri Gruzdyev who has a powerful presence and superb technique. He dominates the stage whenever he appears and his energetic grand jeté is remarkable.
The end of Act tableaux are particularly effective, such as when Cinderella is borne aloft with her train billowing and then exits for the ball in a carriage full with flowers.
The corps de ballet offers commendably strong support and, though this reviewer found that, in general, the women members were even more successful in capturing the playful and light spirit of this piece, this is to quibble. The waltzing in the ball scene is very enjoyable and the interweaving of the different groupings suitably dazzling.
The Orchestra of the English National Ballet were on fine form under the baton of their conductor Alex Ingram.
The costumes are stylish and the colours blend perfectly. Cinderella begins the show in grey rags which contrast with her sparkling silver tutu when she meets and dances with the Prince at the Ball. In this sequence the Courtiers wear stunning midnight blue which matches the drapes also used in the scene.
Some other dance traditions are briefly explored when, on losing Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, the Prince dreams of various foreign Princesses. While these pieces are danced very well they do not add much to the unfolding of the story.
The staging is simple but effective with ample use of gauze and lighting effects and particular magic in the slow reveals. Throughout is a theme of the moon and moonlight. The big moon on the backcloth becomes the clock face which displays the all important onset of midnight which leads to Cinderella's flight from the Prince.
The world of nature impinges on the story from the first entrance of the Fairy Godmother, engagingly portrayed by Desiree Ballantyne. There is much use of dry ice and pale blue lighting whenever she appears. Cinderella is entertained as is the audience by the seasonal fairies in the forest. The tale is resolved when the Prince and Cinderella are reunited after he sees the lost slipper perfectly fit her foot. In the finale Cinderella and the Prince are transported once again to the forest to declare their love for one another.
This production is the first of two to demonstrate the brilliance of the music of Prokofiev for this genre. The English National Ballet will return with their rendering of perhaps his most famous score, Romeo and Juliet.
The company has dedicated the production to their inspiring late designer David Walker and this Cinderella is certain to delight London audiences at the Coliseum after the current tour.
Reviewer: Andrew Edwards