★★★★☆ - Delicious
Nevada Ballet Theatre brought a classic and timeless love story to life at the Smith Center on Valentine’s Day weekend with their visually stunning, lighthearted presentation of “Cinderella,” based on the 1697 story by Charles Perrault and performed to the 1945 classical ballet score of Sergei Prokofiev.
Newly and originally choreographed by Artistic Director James Canfield and Ballet Mistress Tara Foy on the dancers who performed in the piece, the choreography is intensely character-driven. Overall the design is romantic, lyrical, and fluid, with comical aspects of the story heightened particularly for the naughty Stepsisters.
The siblings are traditionally clownish characters who are always cruel to their sister Cinderella, but their antics overwhelmed the narrative of the Act I kitchen scene so much so that Cinderella’s suffering, essential to making her romance with the Prince so meaningful, was diminished. Thus the story lost some of its heart.
But with dynamic characterizations and equally impressive dancing, Leigh Collins as Vain Stepsister and Madison Ewing as Prissy Stepsister, done up in frumpy wigs and wearing stuffed corsets and long underwear, were crowd favorites as they somehow managed to look both gawky and elegant. They danced with stiff, wooden movements yet impossibly graceful high kicks, and performed comedic duets and a trio with Cinderella, portrayed by Emma McGirr, which featured crisp pointe work that often ended with them stomping on each other’s toes or on the vulnerable Cinderella’s feet.
Mercedes Rice as the evil Stepmother didn’t dance much but with her severe Victorian top-knot, stern frown, and dark gown she certainly looked imposing. To help the untalented sisters prepare for the Prince’s Ball, various assistants such as the funny Enrico DeMarco as the Dance Master cabrioled their way into the vast kitchen, setting the stage for more comic moments as they tried in vain to make the dowdy girls presentable.
When the despicable three left for the ball leaving Cinderella to pine at her hearth, the exquisite Christina Ghiardi as the Fairy Godmother arrived to reward her humble virtue. She transformed the dark kitchen into an enchanted forest, and introduced Cinderella to the Fairies of the Guise. The setting was sublime, with the sepia-toned, art-nouveau inspired scenery and muted pastel costumes of David Walker (courtesy of the Houston Ballet) painting a heavenly stage picture, and the shadowy lighting of Peter Jakubowski seeming as if filtered through trees.
Each fairy with her attendants had her own dance and her own purpose, to gift Cinderella with glass slippers, a cape, a carriage, and a crown, all necessary for her trip to the ball. The dancing of Fairies Michelle Meltzer, Kaleigh Schock, Krista Baker, and Laura Zimmerman was airy and ethereal. The Dragonflies, in turquoise and led by the willowy Alissa Dale, had a strange dance which involved attendants Stephan Azulay, Steven Goforth, and Benjamin Tucker passing her overhead to each other in a lift that didn’t quite get the height needed, and then guiding her movements in a contact-improvisation way.
The Fairy Godmother gave the signal for time, and there was a gorgeous sequence where the fairies and attendants formed a circle with each in a position of a number on a clock. As she tapped each one they shifted their arms to represent the movement of the hands of time, and to warn Cinderella of the dreaded midnight curfew. A small explosion erupted offstage, and a pumpkin turned into a carriage led by white horses, and took Cinderella wearing her finery to the Prince’s Ball.
Court dancers at the Royal Palace created an opulent stage picture as they waltzed about in jewel-toned dress, but Morgan Stillman as the Court Jester stole the show in the second act. His powerful dancing, with tremendous side jetes and steady fouettes, elicited the most ooh’s and ahh’s from the audience. With his exuberant personality and athleticism he was a pleasure to watch. He and the Prince, played with distinguished nobility by Sergio Alvarez, made a funny team as Alvarez exasperatedly lifted unwanted potential mates overhead and off to Stillman, who then proceeded to mock them in the most endearing way.
The enchanting McGirr as Cinderella mesmerized with her entrance to the ball, angelic with her pink cape flowing behind her and overall having the pure essence and sweet demeanor essential for the part. She and Alvarez were a perfect physical match both in looks and technique, doing pretty lifts as they waltzed together, oblivious to the crowd. But the ballroom scene was so chaotic that we didn’t see a connection between the two until their final pas-de-deux in the Magical Garden. Their relationship had a feeling of joy, but a passionate sense of shy infatuation and flirtation might have given it more depth.
NBT’s “Cinderella” made it easy to believe that dreams really can come true.