Forget about magic, defying parents, a peasant girl gone rogue and a prince looking for a date, there is nothing cuter than a small child in a fuzzy bumblebee costume. This week, your Dancer With An Attitude was invited to see a V.I.P showing of Nashville Ballet’s Cinderella. The dancing was good, live orchestra amazing, set design and direction great and “…oh my goodness,” the baby bumblebees were the talk of the town.
This production, directed and choreographed by Paul Vasterling, was the classic fairytale, but not without its notable twists. It starts with a young Cinderella, content and safe, being pushed by her father on a tree swing. The story then cuts to the present.
We are first introduced to the stepsisters, played by Mark Allyn Nimmo and Eddie Mikrut. I think there is always a place for a drag queen and we get TWO dancing on point! They squabble, flirt and make fun of each other throughout the night. In fact, I would argue that they are main characters in this production. Their story line returns every other scene. With every flexed foot, jealous hair pull, fat joke and stolen kiss they keep us howling in our seats.
One cannot review this fairytale without nodding towards the main attraction. Cinderella, played by Sadie Bo Harris, was worth the 4 hour drive. First of all, I applaud the choice of allowing the audience to see a ballerina in her bare feet. Long, strong, perfectly arched and strangely void of all the accoutrement I’m accustomed to seeing under a pair of pointe shoes, these are incredible feet. On top of all that, when shoes are introduced they are simply slipped on. It is a brave woman who attempts to dance en pointe without her ribbons. These are technical things but impressive none-the-less. Her dancing is just as striking. She knows exactly what she wants to do and has the technique to execute it perfectly.
A highlight of this production is the second act, The Ball. Harris is exquisite in her solos. The Prince, portrayed by Jon Upleger, is elegant and debonair. Upleger’s turns à la seconde are on the money and he is able to stick all his landings. Their duet, after they found one another, was a highlight of the performance, ending in a sweet hug filled with love and mutual respect. The audience gets the sense that the relationship is something more mature and that it might stand the test of time.
The ball is well designed, the storytelling is clear and some neat tricks are utilized to create mood and move the story forward. The ballroom has giant windows with mirror instead of glass creating the illusion that there are many more people on stage. We are also able see the action from a different perspective. When time gets tight the men and women of the court begin moving like robots, hurried and expressionless, evoking the feeling of a frantic fast forward. During this scene, the giant windows tilt forward giving the audience a remarkable aerial view, adding to the chaos of the moment. When Cinderella’s shoe finally falls off, it lands center stage. Our final image is it’s reflection in the mirror, placing it in the center of the three dimensional space, hovering magically.
Let’s take a moment to mention the children. Artistic Director Vasterling pulls young students from the School of Nashville Ballet. They were everywhere and added another element of whimsy to this fairytale. There is a tiny little tailor with a large brown wig, a minuscule violin player creating ambiance during a dance lesson. In the magical fairy forest, the infamous fuzzy blue and yellow bumble bees buzz and beautiful silver snow angels stand statuesque. All these small characters keep the audience, “awwwwwing” throughout the first two acts.
In act three, the prince, stage left, is searching the world for the owner of the shoe. Cinderella, stage right bathed in a different light, is daydreaming about her wonderful night at the castle. Although, obviously, both in different places, they are thinking and longing for each other.
When The Prince finally discovers the owner of the glass slipper, the busty Step Mother, danced by Caylan Cheadle, cannot believe Cinderella is chosen over her own daughters. Cheadle has a brief Giselle moment, where she takes down her hair and crawls on the floor.
When all is said and done The Prince finds his Princess. With good design, this “Happily ever after” is signified with Cinderella content and safe, being pushed by her man on a tree swing.
Photos by: Marianne Leach and Heather Thorne