Helene

Cinderella, Previews, Casting, Reviews

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"Cinderella", with choreography by Kent Stowell, opens Friday, 4 February. The company has added three weekend performances: a Sunday Matinee to Weekend 1, and a Saturday Matinee and early evening Sunday performance on Weekend 2 and is offering special activities for children for all matinee performances starting one hour before curtain for Prince and Princess dress-up matinees. Having seen the dressed up kids at two "Nutcracker" matinees, watching the kids was an added bonus.

There are two preview videos so far, and they reveal some casting. In the "Cinderella" trailer video, Maria Chapman dances Cinderella with Seth Orza as her Prince:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=948QPJQzwYc

In the stepsisters video, I recognize Lindsi Dec (black turtleneck) and Chalnessa Eames (red thin strapped leotard) as one pair, and Abby Relic (red leotard, black sweatpants) and a dancer I don't recognize by face ( :wub: ) (steel blue leotard with black trim, she's in the still) in her sister. It looks like Carla Korbes (red v-neck long sleeved leotard, black sweatpans) is Margaret Mullin's (blue leotard with red, blue, yellow bodice) fellow stepsister, and Ariana Lallone is stepmother in at least one cast. At the beginning, Kent Stowell coaches Kiyon Gaines. I don't remember if the role is dancing master or dress designer; it's been a while since I've seen it.

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.....and a dancer I don't recognize by face ( :wub: ) (steel blue leotard with black trim, she's in the still)

Looks like Jessika Anspach to me.

[As an aside, IMHO, Jessica always stood out in the corps. I note that recently she is being featured more and more in solo or demi-solo roles (e.g., she was the Peacock in the cast of the Nutcracker I saw this year.....and did a terrific job I thought). We're going to see more and more of her I predict :).]

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Maria Chapman is SO beautiful. Aside from dancing the part very well, I think her physical beauty makes her a great choice for Cinderella.

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.....and a dancer I don't recognize by face ( :wub: ) (steel blue leotard with black trim, she's in the still)

Looks like Jessika Anspach to me.

Indeed it is. Casting is up for Week 1, with many debuts (*):

Friday, 4 February, 7:30pm:

Cinderella
: Lesley Rausch*

Prince
: Jeffrey Stanton

Godmother
: Carrie Imler

Stepmother
: Ariana Lallone

Father
: Uko Gorter†

Stepsisters
: Lindsi Dec* Chalnessa Eames

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Carrie Imler

Memory Father
: Jerome Tisserand

Spring
: Maria Chapman*

Summer
: Brittany Reid*

Fall
: Sarah Ricard Orza*

Winter
: Laura Gilbreath*

ACT II

Jester
: Jonathan Porretta

Evil Sprite
: Jerome Tisserand*

Good Fairy
: Carrie Imler

Harlequin
: James Moore*

Columbine
: Rachel Foster*

Saturday, 5 February, 2pm:

Cinderella
: Rachel Foster*

Prince
: Lucien Postlewaite*

Godmother
: Kylee Kitchens*

Stepmother
: Brittany Reid*

Father
: Uko Gorter†

Stepsisters
: Lindsi Dec Chalnessa Eames

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Kylee Kitchens

Memory Father
: Jerome Tisserand

Spring
: Maria Chapman

Summer
: Lesley Rausch*

Fall
: Sarah Ricard Orza

Winter
: Amanda Clark*

ACT II

Jester
: Benjamin Griffiths*

Evil Sprite
: Jonathan Porretta

Good Fairy
Kylee Kitchens*

Harlequin
: Seth Orza*

Columbine
: Sarah Ricard Orza*

Saturday, 5 February, 7:30pm

Cinderella
: Carla Körbes*

Prince
: Batkhurel Bold

Godmother
: Laura Gilbreath*

Stepmother
: Ariana Lallone

Father
: Olivier Wevers*

Stepsisters
: Jessika Anspach* Abby Relic*

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Laura Gilbreath

Memory Father
: William Lin-Yee

Spring
: Chalnessa Eames*

Summer
: Lesley Rausch

Fall
: Lindsi Dec*

Winter
: Kylee Kitchens*

ACT II

Jester
: Jonathan Porretta

Evil Sprite
: Jerome Tisserand

Good Fairy
:Laura Gilbreath*

Harlequin
: Lucien Postlewaite*

Columbine
: Lesley Rausch*

Sunday, 6 February, 1pm:

Cinderella
: Carrie Imler*

Prince
: Karel Cruz*

Godmother
: Ariana Lallone

Stepmother
: Brittany Reid

Father
: Olivier Wevers

Stepsisters
: Lindsi Dec Chalnessa Eames

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Ariana Lallone

Memory Father
: William Lin-Yee

Spring
: Rachel Foster*

Summer
: Stacy Lowenberg*

Fall
: Margaret Mullin*

Winter
: Laura Gilbreath

ACT II

Jester
: James Moore*

Evil Sprite
: Jonathan Porretta

Good Fairy
: Ariana Lallone

Harlequin
: Seth Orza

Columbine
: Sarah Ricard Orza

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Congratulations to Leslie Rausch on getting opening night. Yes, there are a lot of debuts, but I cannot remember when this was last performed. Does anyone here have that information?

And this piece of casting information

Evil Sprite: Jonathan Porretta

just makes me giggle.

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According to the PNB website, "It was last performed in Seattle in 2002 at the Mercer Arts Arena." I thought I saw all of the programs there, but I must have been away on a business trip when it was performed.

The last time I saw it was in 1999, with Louise Nadeau and Paul Gibson, with Kimberly Davey and Jodie Thomas as the Stepsisters, and Batkhurel Bold as the Evil Sprite.

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Serves me right for not clicking on that link -- thanks for finding the right stuff!

I do wish, though, that they could include information about past performances on the big list of repertory that they have elsewhere on their website. The Wayne Johnson book is a great resource, but it only covers the company to 1997...

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More videos from PNB:

Laura Gilbreath on Fairy Godmother and Dream Mother:

As Fairy Godmother with Carla Korbes as Cinderella

Then with Rachel Foster (black leotard) as Cinderella

As Dream Mother (in light blue leotard) with William Lin-Yee as Dream Father and a PNBS student as Young Cinderella

As Fairy Godmother with Foster and Korbes

Grabbing Ariana Lallone's skirt!

Clip of Maria Chapman (purple leotard) as Cinderella and Carrie Imler as Fairy Godmother

Why is PNB's Cinderella different? Kent Stowell explains his approach to the ballet:

Maria Chapman as Cinderella, with Lindsi Dec (in purple jacket) and Chalnessa Eames (with big white hat with pink bow) as Stepsisters and Seth Orza as Prince

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Thursday 10 February, 7:30pm

Cinderella
: Carla Körbes

Prince
: Batkhurel Bold

Godmother
: Carrie Imler

Stepmother
: Ariana Lallone

Father
: Uko Gorter†

Stepsisters
: Lindsi Dec, Chalnessa Eames

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Carrie Imler

Memory Father
: Jerome Tisserand

Spring
: Rachel Foster

Summer
: Brittany Reid

Fall
: Margaret Mullin

Winter
: Laura Gilbreath

ACT II

Jester
: Benjamin Griffiths

Evil Sprite
: Jonathan Porretta

Good Fairy
: Carrie Imler

Harlequin
: Lucien Postlewaite

Columbine
: Lesley Rausch

Friday 11 February, 7:30pm:

Cinderella
: Maria Chapman*

Prince
: Seth Orza*

Godmother
: Laura Gilbreath

Stepmother
: Ariana Lallone

Father
: Uko Gorter†

Stepsisters
: Jessika Anspach, Abby Relic

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Laura Gilbreath

Memory Father
: William Lin-Yee

Spring
: Chalnessa Eames

Summer
: Lesley Rausch

Fall
: Lindsi Dec

Winter
: Kylee Kitchens

ACT II

Jester
: Benjamin Griffiths

Evil Sprite
: Andrew Bartee

Good Fairy
: Laura Gilbreath

Harlequin
: James Moore

Columbine
: Rachel Foster

Saturday, 12 February, 2pm:

Cinderella
: Lesley Rausch

Prince
: Jeffrey Stanton

Godmother
: Laura Gilbreath

Stepmother
: Brittany Reid

Father
: Olivier Wevers

Stepsisters
: Lindsi Dec, Chalnessa Eames

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Laura Gilbreath

Memory Father
: William Lin-Yee

Spring
: Rachel Foster

Summer
: Stacy Lowenberg

Fall
: Margaret Mullin

Winter
: Amanda Clark

ACT II

Jester
: James Moore

Evil Sprite
: Eric Hipolito Jr.*

Good Fairy
: Laura Gilbreath

Harlequin
: Kiyon Gaines*

Columbine
: Amanda Clark*

Saturday 12 February, 7:30pm:

Cinderella
: Carrie Imler

Prince
: Karel Cruz

Godmother
: Ariana Lallone

Stepmother
: Brittany Reid

Father
: Uko Gorter†

Stepsisters
: Lindsi Dec, Chalnessa Eames

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Ariana Lallone

Memory Father
: William Lin-Yee

Spring
: Maria Chapman

Summer
: Stacy Lowenberg

Fall
: Sarah Ricard Orza

Winter
: Laura Gilbreath

ACT II

Jester
: Jonathan Porretta

Evil Sprite
: Jerome Tisserand

Good Fairy
: Ariana Lallone

Harlequin
: Seth Orza

Columbine
: Sarah Ricard Orza

Sunday, 13 February, 1pm:

Cinderella
: Rachel Foster

Prince
: Lucien Postlewaite

Godmother
: Kylee Kitchens

Stepmother
: Ariana Lallone

Father
: Uko Gorter†

Stepsisters
: Jessika Anspach, Abby Relic

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Kylee Kitchens

Memory Father
: Jerome Tisserand

Spring
: Chalnessa Eames

Summer
: Brittany Reid

Fall
: Lindsi Dec

Winter
: Amanda Clark

ACT II

Jester
: Benjamin Griffiths

Evil Sprite
: Andrew Bartee

Good Fairy
Kylee Kitchens

Harlequin
: Kiyon Gaines

Columbine
: Amanda Clark

Sunday, 13 February 6:30pm:

Cinderella
: Maria Chapman

Prince
: Seth Orza

Godmother
: Ariana Lallone

Stepmother
: Brittany Reid

Father
: Uko Gorter†

Stepsisters
: Lindsi Dec, Chalnessa Eames

ACT I

Memory Mother
: Ariana Lallone

Memory Father
: William Lin-Yee

Spring
: Abby Relic

Summer
: Lesley Rausch

Fall
: Jessika Anspach

Winter
: Kylee Kitchens

ACT II

Jester
: James Moore

Evil Sprite
: Eric Hipolito Jr.

Good Fairy
: Ariana Lallone

Harlequin
: Kiyon Gaines

Columbine
: Amanda Clark

*First time in role

† Guest artist

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Helene very graciously pointed out to me that my review implied that the use of the Seasons was an interpolation by Stowell, which it most certainly is not -- it's in the score, and is a main feature in the Ashton production of the ballet. I promise more careful editing next time, but meanwhile, an overlong set of extra observations.

The company has been promoting Cinderella along with Sleeping Beauty and Midsummer Night’s Dream as a trio of fairy tale ballets (I think there’s even a special subscription package to that effect) but they are actually three very distinct works. As a 19th c ballet by Marius Petipa, SB is the template that other choreographers deal with when they come to make program-length story ballets. Other choreographers can choose to keep or jettison certain elements, but you never really just ignore them. Cinderella resembles the standard story ballet in several fundamental ways, but it’s got some eccentric differences that I think make it less satisfying than the original template.

The Prokofiev score comes right after the work he did on Romeo and Juliet and there are several moments where you hear echoes of the first work in the second. And Stowell reinforces that similarity by adding excerpts from other familiar Prokofiev work to extend the Cinderella score, including material from his first symphony that also went into R&J. These musical quotations are disconcerting at times, making it feel like there should be some kind of dramatic or choreographic relationship between the two ballets, which I don’t think was Stowell’s intention.

In fact, Stowell mentions in an online video that his original desire was to shift attention back to Cinderella from the traditional hubbub of the stepsisters and the more Disney-esque trappings of other productions. Interestingly, his intentions were similar with his production of Romeo and Juliet where he said he wanted to get closer to the central love story rather than exploring the rest of the Shakespearean context. In that situation, he actually used music by a different composer (Tschaikovsky compilation) rather than try to detach the Prokofiev score from the work that Lavrovsky and MacMillan had done with it. Perhaps because there isn’t as powerful an ur-text for Cinderella as there is for R&J, he felt that there was room for his interpretation of the Prokofiev.

One of the reasons you make a program-length work like this is to make a showcase for the depth of your company, and Cinderella does make a convincing vehicle for that kind of statement. Choreographically he’s got two big dancey roles for principal level women, a princely prince and a virtuosic sidekick, several character roles, and big stuff for the corps. There are even some juicy bits for child dancers, which aside from the ‘how cute’ factor, means that you’ve got families in seats, coming to watch their kids. Structurally, this Cinderella resembles the classic developmental arc of the 19th c ballet (introduction of characters and predicament, complication of predicament, resolution of conflict, celebration) , but curiously, he omits what we usually think of as a grand pas de deux at the end of the work. Instead, he’s made two charming, but fairly similar duets for Cinderella and the Prince (one during the ball scene in act two, and the other at the very end of the ballet) that are through-danced, not organized into the adagio/solo variations/allegro coda of the traditional pas de deux. Both of these seem to be occurring in private, or in an alternate dream state, rather than in the public world these characters inhabit. Perhaps this is part of Stowell’s desire to focus on the main characters rather than their context, but he’s missed the chance to show off the classical skills of his principal dancers and tilted the overall structure of the ballet off-kilter a bit. And although Cinderella has a number of solos that really show her character in the first and third acts, the prince doesn’t really do much independent dancing -- it’s not a great showcase for male virtuosity. (and yes, I know the title of the work is “Cinderella,” not “Prince.”)

Opening night cast was really well-balanced, with Leslie Rausch and Jeffrey Stanton both giving very gracious performances. Rausch manages to keep a soft edge on her dancing, even when things are fast or crisp. I’ve seen her do edgy in other places, but that doesn’t come up here. It was a treat to see Stanton in a main role again -- he’s seemed a bit absent in the last couple of years (though part of that was injury related) and I’ve missed his calm presence. Carrie Imler was an excellent Fairy Godmother that night, -- I’ve talked about her sense of control and strength frequently, and it really feeds her interpretation of the character here. No matter how daunting Cinderella might find her situation, after Imler raises her wand, we know that all will be well.

(one of Stowell’s interpolations is a scene at the beginning of the first act where Cinderella ‘sees’ her younger self with mother and father. Mother and daughter have a lovely moment together before the mother dies -- since the same dancer performs the mother and the Fairy Godmother, it really reinforces their connection and our perception of the FG as a nurturer and a protector)

Imler and Cruz danced the main couple on the Sunday matinee, with Lallone as the Fairy Godmother. Strangely enough, I had some difficulty with the combination of Imler and Lallone. They are both very strong and come across as self-assured. During the Seasons section, the two of them dance in parallel frequently, rather like some of the mirroring doubles work in the Bournonville repertory, and although it’s a beautiful sequence abstractly, it doesn’t really work as well dramatically. Imler doesn’t really seem to need a champion here --it’s almost like she’s conjured the FG, making her own luck. She’s back in a more conventional situation in her duets with Cruz, and they have a good balance together -- it’s really just with the FG that I wrinkle my forehead. Aside from that, Lallone is a beautiful FG -- over the course of her career she’s really danced a number of singular characters, and she seems to have thought about them quite deeply. Her Fairy Godmother here is different than her Lilac Fairy, it actually reminds me a bit of her work in Nacho Duato’s Jardi Tancat, with the sense of connection to the other dancers on stage -- she’s the one that reminded me of the ‘mother’ part of godmother.

Stowell’s Jester seems to come from the Soviet examples of that character -- small, fast and irreverent. As you might expect, Jonathan Poretta was an excellent Jester on opening night -- Stowell has choreographed maybe one too many ‘who, me?’ shrugs into the role (it does go on and on again) but Poretta manages to gradate the amount of snark he includes so that you see changes in the character responding to that particular moment. On Sunday James Moore gave a solid performance as well. Both of them dealt with the technical challenges very deftly, and if Poretta’s performance was just a bit more complex, he’s a much more experienced dancer.

Some more random observations:

In the first act, the hubbub with the two stepsisters was great fun, and the audience really bought into the characters. Chalnessa Eames (short and feisty) and Lindsi Dec (tall and gawky) were in both the performances I saw, so I don’t have any compare/contrast information, but they made me giggle frequently. I think Stowell’s desire to get away from the cross-dressing panto characters in the Ashton version works well here -- it’s easy for that kind of slapstick to sweep everything else to the side. The scene with the dressmaker was a bit pat -- (jokes about stuffing your bodice and padding your butt get old fast) but the dancing lesson was dead on, especially the way that the harpsichordist (danced by Margaret Mullin and Carli Samuelson) bounced on her stool so that her puffy hat bobbed up and down. Olivier Wevers was wonderfully picky and proud as the dancing master, flabbergasted by the awkward sisters and overwhelmed by Cinderella. In the same role on Sunday, Andrew Bartee looked like an agitated spider – all vibrating arms and legs. Ariana Lallone was good and nasty as the Stepmother to Rausch’s Cinderella, which made her transition to the Fairy Godmother in the other cast even more impressive.

Stowell’s version of the Seasons is quite lovely, especially in the four solos. Opening night Rachel Foster substituted for Maria Chapman as Spring (who had a mild foot injury, according to Peter Boal in post-show Q/A) and looked very at home in the role. Brittany Reid (Summer) and Laura Gilbreath (Winter) each had a great sense of sustainment in their solos, but the real treat was Sarah Ricard Orza as Autumn. The role is rhythmically eccentric, and she made the most of it. On Sunday, Margaret Mullin had an equally lovely performance of it – possibly it’s a lucky solo.

But the real thrill of the first act is the dozen “Clock Children” that the Fairy Godmother uses to illustrate Cinderella’s curfew. They’re dressed in baggy, pumpkin-colored jumpsuits that give them a roly-poly look, with bright green stems for hats. The hats, which look like a cross between a pea pod and a canoe, were just stunning, and were the talk of the lobby during the intermission.

The ballroom scene opens the second act, and is one of the best group dances I’ve seen from Kent Stowell. It’s been performed as a stand-alone work in the past, and more than holds its own. There’s a chilly touch to the couples (a bit like La Valse) which contrasts with the doofy entrance of the Stepsisters. They come off as country cousins here – gawking at the other guests and mooning after the prince.

Stowell’s interpolated ‘Theater of Marvels’ is very like his other ‘play within a play’ works, recapitulating or foreshadowing material from the larger ballet in the guise of a party entertainment. He does this twice in his Nutcracker, and it’s in his R&J as well. It’s full of excited rushing around, especially for the ‘Good Fairy’ and the ‘Evil Sprite.’ It’s interesting that the villain here has a relatively benign name – ‘evil’ yes, but a ‘sprite,’ which in the hierarchy always seems to be just one level up from an imp. The Fairy Godmother also dances the Good Fairy (and, I just now realize, is actually just plain ‘Godmother’ in the program – no supernatural status implied.) but the Sprite is a smaller, stand-alone role. Jerome Tisserand has an attenuated line, especially in his legs, and his Sprite did have a magical aspect. Poretta was scheduled to dance this (as well as the first act Dancing Master) for Sunday, but was replaced. (haven’t heard why) Eric Hippolito, Jr. gave a very sturdy performance, but I have to admit I was looking forward to seeing what Poretta would make with the part.

After Cinderella returns to the kitchen at the beginning of the last act Stowell’s made a dumbshow to set up the business with the shoe, which passes fairly quickly. The Godmother and the Seasons return, and then the act finishes with the second of the two duets for Cinderella and the prince. Although there are some fancy lifts in this pas de deux, it ends without bravura. Instead, the prince is turning Cinderella in a down spot center stage, which feels very music box-y. And when the sparkly snow starts to fall with the curtain, the audience all sighs.

One last fun fact – the scenic designer uses rear projection photographs to good effect in several parts of the ballet (the French alley of trees in the second act is mirrored by the double line of party guests who greet Cinderella) but my favorite example is the during the scenes with the Godmother – apparently she lives in Chenonceaux, the chateau where Catherine de’Medici lived when she came to France from Italy, bringing the Italian courtly dances that became the ancestors of ballet with her. I had the good luck to visit Chenonceau a couple of years ago, and surreptitiously danced part of a pavane in the great hall.

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Poretta was scheduled to dance this (as well as the first act Dancing Master) for Sunday, but was replaced. (haven’t heard why).....

On Saturday night at the Q&A, Boal mentioned that Poretta was not injured in any way, but rather that on opening night he developed a rash because of some chemical in the Jester's costume (which presumably keeps him from wearing it again).

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Poretta was scheduled to dance this (as well as the first act Dancing Master) for Sunday, but was replaced. (haven’t heard why).....

On Saturday night at the Q&A, Boal mentioned that Poretta was not injured in any way, but rather that on opening night he developed a rash because of some chemical in the Jester's costume (which presumably keeps him from wearing it again).

Oh dear, how miserable for him!

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Hi Sandi,

The scenic designs are actually painted drops, rather than projections. Beautiful work!

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Hi Sandi,

The scenic designs are actually painted drops, rather than projections. Beautiful work!

Wow, that is quite something -- they are very photographic. Kudos to the scene painters.

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