Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella is a sumptuous holiday treat
Unrated. Opens Friday, December 23, at the Vancity Theatre
No bibbidi-bobbidi-boos here: the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new version of Cinderella is a sumptuous holiday treat, but expect something a lot darker than Disney.
Choreographed by the Birmingham’s artistic director, David Bintley, to mark the company’s 20th anniversary, this Cinderella opens with the title character grieving at the grave of her lost mother. Later, she toils in a basement of grimy tiles and a gaping fireplace that designer John Macfarlane has created to look like the mouth to hell itself. When it’s about to hit midnight at the ball, the huge, mechanical cogs and wheels of a clock appear, Metropolis-like, behind the stage, and the frantic clanging of the hour makes you think it’s the end of times.
The visual dazzle will please adults in the audience, but don’t worry: there is also enough to entertain children—especially aspiring ballerinas. Though the run time of 140 minutes can be daunting, Bintley spices things up with behind-the-scenes action.
The performance itself is story ballet with the emphasis on story. Expect lots of pratfalls between the two ugly stepsisters, and Bintley has added an array of dancing mice, frogs, and lizards to Cindy’s transformation scene.
There’s a lot of stage business between the dance sequences, but the latter are polished to a fine sheen. Australian star Elisha Willis is a forlorn, emotional Cinderella, and when she appears at the ball—impossibly tiptoeing down a giant, central staircase en pointe—it’s perfection. Her prince, Scotland’s Iain Mackay, is dashing but realistically passionate.
As for Sergei Prokofiev’s music, it translates with new richness and complexity on the big screen, enhancing the darker tinge of this take. We see so little large-scale story ballet in Vancouver, other than, of course, the Nutcracker at this time of year. And even renditions of that chestnut look Disneyfied next to this broody beauty.
Watch the trailer for Cinderella.