Spoiler alert: A pumpkin will not become a golden carriage nor will four white mice turn into four white horses in choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne’s dance drama, “Cinderella.” Bourne is best known for turning movies and fairy tales into wordless ballet dramas, with such lauded productions as “The Red Shoes,” “Mary Poppins,” his all-male version of “Swan Lake” and even “Edward Scissorhands.”
Bourne’s Cinderella is back onstage at the Ahmanson Theatre two decades after making its US debut here. He relocates the fairy tale to World War II London, retaining the key characters, including the truly evil Stepmother, the two not-so-ugly but quite nasty stepsisters, and plain jane Cinderella, who’s been made a servant to the family, and keeps her head down but nevertheless tries to keep an eye on her beloved invalid father.
The fairy godmother, however, has become the “Angel,” reminding me of David Bowie with his shining silver clothing and silver hair. And the Prince is now an injured pilot named Harry, bandaged up, disoriented and holding his head in pain. (His two friends are known as Tom and Dick in this ballet.)
In this version, there are also several very annoying step-brothers, assorted boyfriends and girlfriends and other dancers who will people the stage during various scenes; it’s a three-act drama, roughly 40 minutes per act.
Yes, of course, there’s a shoe, a bright, sparkling silver slipper; but there’s also a plot twist. Harry, the pilot, stumbles into Cinderella’s home, where she attempts to protect him and they make an immediate connection. The story then moves on to the many ways in which Cinderella and Harry will try to find one another, and continually be frustrated doing so through the blitz, blackouts, a dancehall and a hospital.
There’s no trying shoes on stepsisters in this ballet; the question is how and when will Harry and Cinderella finally get together again. In fact, there’s kind of a red herring here: Harry’s pilot cap falls into Cinderella’s hands, and I was convinced that she was supposed to find him with the cap, instead of the traditional story of finding the foot that fits the shoe. But I was wrong; the shoe still matters.
I’ll be honest. I’m no judge of dance or dancers; I can’t talk about technique or toe shoes, arabesques or lifts. I can say that to my eye, sometimes the costumes obscured the dancing. There were some unique gestures that I wouldn’t ordinarily associate with ballet, that added a quirky, more contemporary element to the classical ballet moves. And frankly, I thought it lagged in Act II, like “we’ve got all this music, let’s fill the time…”
But the transformation of the drab and mousy, glasses-wearing housemaid Cinderella into a stunningly gorgeous blond, ball-gown wearing cinematic goddess in Act II is amazing. Stage effects, too, really are breathtaking. I’m still trying to fathom whether the rain that began pelting the stage was real or projected.
Bourne’s plot strays far from the original, including the odd twist of the hard-drinking, man-chasing stepmother shooting Cinderella’s father, resulting in his being wheelchair bound. And, not to put to fine a point on it, Harry and Cinderella (GASP!) spend the night together…not sleeping.
Hats off to principal dancers Cordelia Braithwaite (Cinderella), Andrew Monaghan (Harry), Paris Fitzgerald (The Angel) and Anjali Mehra (Sybil, the stepmother). As plots go, this one thickens by the minute and is difficult to follow, if you’re seeking to match it to the fairy tale. However, it does have a happy ending.
Cinderella is onstage at the Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center through March 10. Bring some snacks – there are two intermissions! Tickets here: https://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/ahmanson-theatre/2018-19/new-adventures-matthew-bourne-cinderella/
Santa Monica Rep has an open call for actors to submit audition videos through March.
If you make the cut, you’ll get a callback in April.
Right now, they’re casting for their upcoming and very popular Annual Playreading Festival (June 7—9). SMR Playreading Festival is a weekend of theatre anchored in a specific theme and explored through a slate of play readings supported by discussions and ancillary programming.
Per the submissions page, SM Rep states: “We want our company to reflect the world we live in, and it is our policy to actively recruit actors of all cultural backgrounds, of varying capability, and who identify as LGBTQIA.”
More information about Santa Monica Rep can be found on the website: https://santamonicarep.org/ But be sure to submit your audition video here: https://santamonicarepgeneralaudition.castingcrane.com/
GET YOUR GREENS ON!
Next week, on Saturday, February 23, Virginia Avenue Park, in association with the Parent Connection Group, offers a free event, the fourth annual Greens Festival, to celebrate Black History Month. This year the theme for the festival is “Young, Gifted and Black,” and will feature cooking demos with celebrity chefs, a community greens cooking contest, a Black History exhibit, musical performances, book readings and more.
Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.