Before Nemo found us last week (seriously, can we stop with the naming of winter storms?) I took to one of our area theatres to check out the State Ballet Theatre of Russia as they performed Cinderella.
First question was… what the heck is the State Ballet Theatre of Russia? A Google search comes up with scarce info, but what I did find says it is the touring name of the Voronezh State Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Yes. Okay. So, it’s safe to say that they’re not in direct competition with the Bolshoi or anything like that. Then again, our little corner of the world, love it though I do, is not known for being a hotbed of culture, so it seemed to be a reasonable match.
Somehow I managed to miss the usher handing out programs, so I never got to read the synopsis or see who played the parts, so apologies if my review is even sketchier than usual.
Suffice it to say, this was not the Disney-fied version, which was quite fine with me, but not being terribly familiar with ANY version I only had a vague idea what to expect.
The opening scene seemed familiar. Bedraggled looking girl sweeping while her snotty stepsisters taunt one another and their mother… the rather tall and, uh, burly-looking mother. “Is that a MAN?” I whispered to teacher-friend next to me. “Duh!” Okay, I wasn’t expecting a man in the role, but it was entirely appropriate with the rest of the comic behavior of the trio. This was an entertaining scene, but Cinderella seemed to be on the periphery of all of it. I guess that was the point… the trio is busy getting ready for the ball and Cinderella is left out. But I expected there to be something to make the audience feel a bit more sympathetic of her plight. She seemed stuck with a bunch of brats, for sure, but they didn’t seem all THAT terrible. The solo she performs after being left by the others didn’t really further her cause. Harumph.
While she’s alone a band of Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, et al., doppelgangers suddenly popped out from all over to invade the room. They all appeared to be wearing oven mitts. Wha’?!? They were soon joined by a shoeless old crone draped in black. While I would have stayed in hiding from this band of weirdos, Cinderella offers up her shoes to the crone and the posse disappears as the step-family returns and chides Cinderella for being shoeless. At which time the crone, transformed into a beautiful fairy, returns putting everyone but Cinderella into a state of suspended animation and presents her with a pair of sparkly pointe shoes. Oooh… purrty!!!
Somehow Cinderella gets spirited away to this other mysterious place where she meets what turned out to be fairies representing the four seasons. My companions had to explain this during the intermission… for one thing I was unfamiliar with the Seasons being part of the story, but beyond that, they could’ve used some costuming help to aid in the identification process! To me they just appeared to be dancers in mismatched tutus. The fairies all dance for Cinderella and present her with various items for the ball (a stole, dress, tiara…) while the dwarves, er… gnomes… or… whatever the heck the oven-mitted crew was supposed to be bumbled around in the background being entirely distracting. There really was a Sleepy… kept keeling over. Or maybe he was the drunken elf. I have no idea.
Cinderella goes off stage to prepare for the ball. Meanwhile, AT the ball… we’ve got some regular partygoers dancing it up. And then… the divertissements from the Nutcracker appear. Erm. Really? I get that some royal ball would have representatives from other kingdoms, but this was as if the Nut was going on next door and the dancers got lost and appeared on the wrong stage… there was the Spanish couple, the Arabian couple, the Chinese couple. The step-family then shows up in all their inappropriate but entertaining glory. More dancing ensues and then — CRASH — curtain down. I thought there was a timing error backstage, but while I was researching the company I stumbled across a NY Times review from 2006 or 2007 on this production and the reviewer commented on it, too, so I guess it’s intentional, to signal that the party isn’t over, but still… kind of odd!
After intermission we’re returned to the ballroom and Cinderella enters in her made-over form bedazzling all attendees, including our picky prince. Lots of dancing ensues. Including a weird return of the stepmother and stepsisters, stripped down to their pantaloons and dancing with enormous orange slices on their head. Um… I… don’t get it. What, if you can’t win the prince over with your sparkling personalities, dance in your underwear with oversized fruit? Oh wait, isn’t that the premise of the Bachelor?
The party goes on and then we’re getting towards midnight, OH NOES!!! The fairy godmother and oven-mitt crew returns and pulls off a sudden switcheroo of Cinderellas which amazed me for about a second before I noticed the gnomes carrying off the princess version of Cinderella. Drat. They almost got me.
The prince finds the remaining slipper and then mopes about for a while. Then starts the parade of party ladies to determine if the shoe fits. The generic attendees I got, but the Nutcracker couples come back in and some are quite put off that the shoe does not fit. Wait… are these guys trying to pawn off their wives onto the Prince? Did I miss something? I mean, maybe they are supposed to be foreign princesses, which would make more sense, but how come they each come with a matching guy? Is he the king of the foreign kingdom accompanying his daughter? And if so, did they leave all the queens at home? What is going on? Regardless, we got a bit of the stereotypical Spanish sass, Chinese finger-pointing, and Arabian hip wiggling. Argh.
Pan back to Cinderella, moping alone with her untwinned shoe (but not dancing with it… I thought it would have been sweeter if she was dancing in the one shoe… but that’s just me).
Then the prince or his entourage or someone has the bright idea, let’s head over to the house of the weirdo fruit-head dancers and see if my true love lives there! As you can imagine, the stepsisters’ attempts to put the shoe on were amusing, but not nearly as amusing as when Mother Dearest attempts to cram the petite shoe onto her/is hoof (oh, weird side note, I guess dancers who played the stepmother and the prince switch off from night to night… how… Freudian!). Then Cinderella is somehow prompted to bring out the other shoe at which point everyone is shocked and the stepfamily falls into immediate contrition at their oversight.
Curtain closes and opens to reveal Cinderella in her princess form once again. And they all lived happily ever after…
Not a bad show. Not a great show. I wouldn’t tell anyone to rush out and see this group if they see them touring through their neighborhood, but it wasn’t an unpleasant evening.
If nothing else it boosted my interest in our own annual school show taking place in a few months which, coincidentally, is Cinderella! Stay tuned for Cinderella… take 2!