A review of yesterday afternoon's performance of Cinderella by Ballet Arizona at Symphony Hall in Phoenix.
11/3/13 Mat. was as follows:
Cinderella -- Jillian Barrell
Prince -- Nayon Iovino
Step Sisters -- Amber Lewis and Paola Hartley
Step Mother -- Kenna Draxton
Fairy Godmother -- Natalia Magnicaballi
Spring -- Kokoro Umemoto and Eric White
Summer -- Tzu Chia Huang and Randy Crespo
Fall -- Michelle Vagi and Myles Lavallee
Winter -- Rochelle Marks and Brian Leonard
Act1 scene 1 of BalletAZ's Cinderella is light and entertaining and the roles of the Step-Sisters are the true stars of this section. Both Lewis and Hartley portrayed the humor with great aplomb and apparent affection for the characters. Quite frankly they nearly stole the show but then again I am admittedly rather bias towards Ms. Hartley and relish the chance to see her on stage. I felt strongly that more could have been made of the Step-Mother's role. Especially with the the more than technically capable and wonderfully dramatic Draxton dancing the part.
As for Cinderella herself, Ms. Barrell- she was lovely, expressive and technically clean as usual. Her lines are gorgeous more often than not and this ballerina's legs and feet are especially pretty. Her Prince. Mr. Iovino is a bit more "green" than his ballerina and this shows up in the partnering between the two but he himself is rather impressive at times. I remember enjoying him quite alot in last seasons "All Balanchine". Perhaps with more time working together this partnership might develop but as of now it is missing the needed chemistry to make the story not just performed well enough but believable- something really needed in a story ballet.... particularly a Fairy Tale story ballet.
The entire Fairy's section was not up to par in my opinion with the exception of Magnicaballi who was magical as Fairy Godmother. Again like the role of Step-Mother I would have liked to see more dancing created for this character. There is a blatantly obvious gap between her ability and presence and those who she shared the scene with on Sunday. Magnicaballi is ultra refined in almost every way. It can be seen even in the placement of her finger tips. She is Ballerina with a capital B while most of her fellow company members are dancers- many of them wonderfully fine dancers, don't get me wrong but.....there IS a difference.
Case in point, the selection of Winter Fairy for this run of Cinderella. The quite young/inexperienced and still apprentice contract level, Rochelle Marks. A nice enough addition to the corps but definitely not ready for solo roles. She is tall and long limbed with a particularly swan like neck. This can make for nice lines sometimes but it also makes for some rather awkward movements too. Miss Marks will likely gain control over this with time and attention but center stage, in a soloist character PDD is not the place for her at this point, imho anyway. Especially not when there are other talented and well seasoned ladies who appeared only in corps roles along side senior level academy students.
Ok, back to the Season PDD's. Both Spring and Summer Fairy's had new-ish to them partners and it showed. I suspect Tzu Chia Huang (w/ her more regular partner Ilir Shtylla) gave a much stronger performance during their two evening appearances than what I saw during Sunday's matinee.
The best of the 4 seasonal pdd offerings for me was Michelle Vagi and Myles Lavallee. I think it is worth noting here that this pair was the only one cast as Autumn and the consistency and familiarity with eachother made for a much smoother and more enjoyable performance than their counter parts.
Act2 and Act3 -- The general audience absolutely loved the carriage entrance and small pyrotechnic that proceeded it but the highlight here for me was the "Prince's Companions". I often find myself most enjoying Ib Anderson's choreography for his male dancers. The rest of Act 2 was fairly uneventful but set the scene/told the story well enough. Again in these Acts Jillian Barrell and Nayon Iovino more than hold their own dancing solo and are pleasurable to watch but.... the partnering was lacking comfortably and the all important needed magic.
Final analysis.... nice enough but definitely hoping for more from Bayadère in Feb.