Trials and Transformation
The much-awaited full evening production of choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella arrived Friday evening May 5, 2013 and was pronounced a great success by an enthusiastic ‘first night’ audience. There were SFB celebrations for donors including before and after parties. With the cooperation of the Dutch National Ballet who share the credits, Wheeldon and SF Artistic Director Helgi Thomasson have enlisted a brilliant group of designers and associates to create a visually stunning production.
There are marvels to behold. The Prologue shows us the death of Cinderella’s mother and her subsequent transformation into a tree! The four fates, knows as the seasons as well as Lightness, Generosity, Mystery and Fluidity assist all transformations. Who needs a fairy godmother when there are a myriad of gnomes, puppeteers, servants and four wonderful gold masked dancers as the fates… to work wonders? Daniel Deivison, Garen Scribner, Anthony Spulding and Shane Wuerthner danced the principle fates. But the foremost wonder is the dancing of ballerina Maria Kochetkova. She is an actress, a skilled partner and a superb technician.
Although Wheeldon is not generous in the choreography she is given, Kochetkova is able to project the innocent, unjustly used girl, the grateful recipient of the gifts she received and then, of course, the romantic woman who appears at the ball. Her movement is delicate, her timing and response to others perfect and her demeanor divine.
Other distinguished roles are played by stepsisters Sara Van Patten and Frances Chung. They and Katitia Waldo as the stepmother are accomplished in bringing humor and charm to a production otherwise overwhelmed with devices. The best of these are the circle of chairs that float above Cinderella’s kitchen; the most complex is the ‘seasons’ scenes in which seemingly dozens of persons and objects appear and disappear in no particular order. Of course there are chandeliers, pillars and backdrops that move in and out constantly for the several scene changes. But where is the dancing?
Joan Boada makes a valiant effort as Prince Guillaume. He is best when playing with his friend Benjamin as portrayed by Taras Domitro. His gallantry and romantic skill as a partner to Kochetkova is not fulfilled, partly due to his stature and partly that their ‘pas de deux’ are uninteresting in shape, design and excitement. The ballroom scene and several others sections are dominated by the waltz music of Prokovkiev’s score. Although this is a favorite selection, the central interaction between the Prince (Boada) and Cinderella (Kochetkova) is constantly disrupted by the dominant large group in their purple and green costumes. This reviewer would rather watch the soloists.
Nevertheless, SFB in partnership with the Dutch National Ballet closes its 2013 season with a triumph. It will, of course, be repeated in the 2014 season for all those who cannot get tickets to the production.
The design staff must be congratulated for its magical designs: Julian Crouch, Scenic and costumes: Natasha Katz, lighting; Basil Twist, Tree and carriage sequence; Daniel Brodie, Projection Design; Frank McCullagh, Scenic Associate. The orchestra was, as usual, conducted with great care by Martin West. We earnestly wish that Mr. Wheeldon would extend his choreographic talents to more inventive dance.