The Tower Season of Cinderella
Choreography by Christopher Hampson
St James Theatre
With the Vector Wellington Orchestra
Then: Invercargill, August 14-15; Dunedin, August 18-19; Napier, August 23-25; Palmerston North, August 28-29; Takapuna, September 1-2; Auckland, September 5-9.
Marrying the prince of your dreams is probably one of the great universal aspirations of young girls, possibly coming second to marrying the pop star of your dreams.
It is what makes tales like Cinderella so appealing, combining all the romantic notions of love at first sight and true love overcoming all obstacles.
With its latest production of Cinderella, the Royal New Zealand Ballet has invested that story with all the romance, excitement and beauty one would expect, combining a fairystory, a tale of love and a fable about good triumphing over evil.
The production brings together sumptuous sets and costumes, some exceptional dancing by the soloists and the inspiring music of Prokofiev.
This Cinderella also manages to explore the darker, human dynamics behind the story with a moving opening tableau of her mother’s funeral.
Later her mother appears as her fairy godmother in a dream and prepares her for the ball.
Bronte Kelly is an entrancing Cinderella, managing to convey a variety of emotions with vivid expression and consummate dancing.
Her reverie the morning after the ball is an eloquent evocation of the event, presented with a mixture of tentative steps and soft, languid movements.
She achieved some enthusiastic dancing during the ballroom sequence with the Prince (Brendan Bradshaw) and some mesmeric, rapturous work in the romantic finale.
Bradshaw showed superb athleticism and a dynamic technique which dominated the ballroom sequence.
His dancing before the arrival of Cinderella was particularly effective in expressing the weariness and emptiness of his life, providing a marked contrast to his later thrilling performance with Cinderella.
The pair were stunning in their duos, with Kelly displaying an elegance of line balance and movement, while Bradshaw appeared carry and lift her as though she were a feather.
The two stepsisters, the Tall (Abigail Boyle) and Short (Katherine Grange), are not so much ugly as socially incompetent and their attempts to be worldly and sophisticated are brilliantly comical, their antics almost stealing Cinderella’s limelight.
Their clowning at the ball and their more refined dancing with the Prince's attendants were displays by supremely accomplished performers.
The sets by Tracy Grant Lord provide a simple, cloying interior for the family home and an elaborate setting for the ball, and the costumes are a perfect match for the mixture of magical, bizarre and sumptuous.
The fabulous gem-encrusted tutu Cinderella wears to the ball sets her apart from the crowd but looks as though she misread the dress code on the invitation (which, of course, the stepmother had thrown away).
Qi Huan as Cinderella’s father was effective in his slightly tipsy duo with Cinderella and lively when dancing with Maree White, whose performance as the petulant stepmother was always well judged, edgy and tense.
Paul Mathews was excellent as the foppish Dancing Master and Sir Jon Trimmer gave another entertaining cameo performance as the Shoemaker.
The corps de ballet, particularly in the ballroom scene with their voluptuous gowns, was excellent, providing well-co-ordinated waves of elegant movement.
The Vector Wellington Orchestra under Marc Taddei was in fine form playing Prokofiev's evocative score.
Writing this great romantic ballet the closing stages of the disastrous Second World War, Prokofiev could well have seen it as a metaphor for the state of Russia, with the death of Cinderella’s mother and what follows as a metaphor for the death and rebirth of the motherland.
The Stepmother could be seen as being some female equivalent of Ivan the Terrible, as the compsor was writing the score for the film at the same time as the Cinderella ballet music.