Review by Mark-Ellis Bennett
Last weekend Asheville Ballet staged Cinderella, the largest production of its 50-plus year history. Prokofiev’s powerful score, the stunning choreography and colorful new costumes and sets were enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience of all ages.
According to Asheville Ballet’s artistic director, Ann Dunn, the company spent nearly a year rehearsing and preparing for Cinderella. The choreography was a collaboration between Dunn, Lyle Laney and Fleming Lomax, but it was really the interaction between the characters that brought the ballet to life.
The production opened in the home where Cinderella, danced by Emily Craig, as she served as a maid to her mean stepmother (portrayed by Lomax) and two vain and selfish stepsisters. Male dancers in drag with pointe shoes traditionally play the role of the stepsisters — Laney and Jacob Walas performed the parts hysterically: The audience howled with laughter in reaction to their campy antics.
An invitation to the Spring Ball at the palace was received in the home, and there was an expectation the prince will choose a bride. The stepmother refused to let Cinderella attend. A beggar woman — Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother in disguise — visited and was treated badly by everyone except Cinderella. After the others left, the Fairy Godmother, portrayed by Rebecca O’Quinn, returned to transform Cinderella’s ragged frock into a sparkling gown and a pumpkin into a spectacular seven-and-a-half foot-tall carriage. She was warned to leave the ball before midnight, when the spell would be broken.
The palace ballroom was a set that incorporated a new 40-by-50-foot hand-painted backdrop, and a huge sparkling crystal chandelier. The stepmother and stepsisters unsuccessfully competed for the prince’s attention, but he was smitten when Cinderella made her entrance. The pair performed a pas de deux, complete with leaps and lifts. A huge ticking clock dropped from above and hovered as the hour of midnight approached. Cinderella hastily exited, dropping the glass slipper with which the prince later identified her.
A wedding took place at the palace blessed by the fairies Aphrodite and Eros, culminating in a grand pas de deux. At the performance’s conclusion, an appreciative audience gave the dancers a standing ovation.