Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Shoe Must Go On! - Cinderella - Ballet and Musical Reviews

Cinderella - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Choreographed by James Kudelka, Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Runs until June 15th 2014

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella - Broadway Theatre - Broadway - New York City, NY - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Music and Lyrics and Original Book by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, New Book by Douglas Carter Beane, Directed by Mark Brokaw, Choreographed by Josh Rhodes

We never seem to tire of the classic tale of the poor girl Cinderella, tormented by her wicked stepmother and two stepsisters, who, thanks to her fairy godmother, manages to meet and fall in love with the Prince. Of course, at midnight, the magic disappears and Cinderella must leave the ball, but not before leaving behind her glass slipper (or in the ballet's case, her sparkly pointe shoe). A ruse to get the Prince to search for his love, before a humble Cinderella slips into the shoe that fits perfectly. Plotholes and feminism be damned, but it's a well worn tale that we still seem to clamour for.


The National Ballet of Canada revisits the classic tale that I adored back in 2008, and this time around, I adored it even more. While the tale itself isn't revolutionary, James Kudelka's choreography still feels fresh and new, within this very classic story. It's a lovely and amusing ballet and Cinderella, especially with it's grande ball at the centre of its story as a grand excuse for some glorious dancing from the entire company, with beautiful costumes that billow as the dancers partner up and dance around in this fantasy dream.


Kudelka adds a world wide search by the Prince in his search for the woman who fits the shoe, which adds a fun element for the Prince and his Officers, with additional roles for the women representing his potential princesses from each locale he searches.


Add in some physical comedy in the wicked Stepmother and Stepsisters, played to joyous sneering delight by Alejandra Perez-Gomez as the Stepmother, and Tanya Howard and Rebekah Rimsay (repeating her deliciously hilarious role from 2008) as the Stepsisters (above), and this Cinderella keeps things light between the dreamy romance, anchored by the swoonworthy team of Sonia Rodriguez in the title role and Guillaume Côté as the handsome Prince.


Wonderful dancing and characterizations by the rest of the company, and this time, a new standout to note was Trygve Cumpston, one of the Officers, joining the corps that has many dancers to watch for in the future.

The new Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway (now running over a year), based on their TV movie special score , with a revised book by Douglas Carter Beane, manages to modernize the old-fashioned tale and adds a nice girl-power twist, and adds some dimension to the Prince's plight. While I saw the wonderful original cast (with Laura Osnes in the title role and Santino Fontana as the Prince), the current cast boasts pop star (and former Canadian Idol contestant) Carly Rae Jepsen as Cinderella, with TV star Fran Drescher as the Wicked-Stepmother. The rest of the cast includes original (and very funny) Ann Harada as one of the wicked stepsisters (and a sweet Stepahnie Gibson as the other stepsister who isn't as evil as we initially think), and Victoria Clark as the fairy godmother, but while I adored this production the first time around, with it's clever modernization of the story (adding a political element, a misunderstood "evil" stepsister, and a Prince with more depth than this story usually allows for), the beautiful originating music, and the gorgeous Tony winning costumes by William Ivey Long, the big question currently is: How are Carly Rae Jepsen and Fran Drescher.


Fran Drescher plays Fran Drescher as the evil-Stepmother, here called Madame, which is perfect for the role of the evil-stepmother. It's not really a stretch but you can delight at Ms. Drescher having a delight on stage, spitting out her lines with relish.


Carly Rae Jepsen, with her lower and raspier natural singing voice, sounds very different than the more classic and smooth voice of Laura Osnes, but Jepsen is surprisingly strong and her voice sounds beautiful singing R&H's songs. She's also wonderfully loving and winning in the role, which admittedly, isn't the most difficult role to act out, but Jepsen more than acquits herself and manages to turn in a very strong stage performance.

I also managed to see the understudy as the Prince but to my delight, it was Cody Williams, who was a revelatory delight in Arena Stage's Oklahoma!, and again here, was perfectly wonderful as the pondering Prince.

Photo of Cinderella Ballet - Rebekah Rimsay and Tanya Howard by Aleksandar Antonijevic
Photos of Cinderella Ballet - All others - by Cylla von Tiedemann
Photo of Cinderella on Broadway by Carol Rosegg 

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