Opening Nights: Cinderella

PNB's ever-popular fairy tale.

Kent Stowell's production of Cinderella is a 1994 Ford, rather than a brand-new Tesla. Solid, well-built, making good use of existing materials, not particularly innovative, but a substantial example of a mainstream style. And the company has certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of it. Since its premiere, PNB has performed it multiple times at home and on tour, but these are their first performances since Peter Boal has taken over the artistic directorship. The underlying Cinderella story is as brief as it is familiar—beautiful girl is abused by nasty Stepmother, rescued by Fairy Godmother, and pursued by handsome Prince. (Cinderella is the only character with an actual name—the rest are identified by their roles.) In order to make this plot stretch to two and a half hours, Stowell has inserted a few scenes outside the original scenario, so we actually see Cinderella's mother in a flashback. And we watch the courtly entertainment at the Prince's ball. The ballet benefits from this added time, especially in an extended section where the Fairy Godmother leads a dance with the four seasons and the 12 months of the year. We feel the languor of summer and the gusts of autumn in the solos, while the ensemble is a reminder of Cinderella's magical curfew. The ballet is full of twelves, from the dozen couples waltzing through the ballroom scene to a pack of children summoned by the Fairy Godmother, dressed in pumpkin orange with green stems for hats, bobbing up and down to a tick-tock rhythm. On opening night, Cinderella was Lesley Rausch, in a very gentle performance with Jeffrey Stanton as her courtly Prince. Carrie Imler waved a mighty wand as the Godmother; innate strength makes her a natural for a magical role like this. And Rausch could be posing for a delicate cameo portrait—one that could be used to illustrate a book of fairy tales.

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