Madison Ballet's "Cinderella," 2010
The Madison Ballet was savvy to predict that Kenneth Branagh’s new movie would create a fresh interest in Cinderella. Artistic Director W. Earle Smith has brought back the company’s elaborate, full-length Cinderella ballet, complete with Prokofiev’s moody and haunting score (which was pre-recorded). The company last performed Cinderella in 2010.
Most audience members will be familiar with the story, although this production provides some twists. The kind and thoughtful Cinderella (the perfectly cast Shannon Quirk) is mistreated by her monstrous stepsisters (Rachelle Butler and Abigail Henninger having fun camping it up) and stepmother (Andrea Henry). Luckily she has the Winter Fairy (Annika Reikersdorfer) looking out for her.
Crestfallen when she isn’t allowed to attend the prince’s ball, Cinderella is transported to a magical woodland where fairies and insects of all sizes dance for her. Fall, Spring and Summer Fairies join the Winter Fairy in welcoming Cinderella. They perform excellent solos (especially the dynamic Jackson Warring) and present her with gifts in preparation for her appearance at the ball.
Naturally, she stuns at the ball and the prince (a regal Phillip Ollenburg) is smitten; they dance all night. Cinderella’s enormous gown makes for a glorious visual, but is obtrusive and masks Quirk’s impressive technique. Luckily, she returns to her tattered attire for their romantic pas de deux, which is filled with inventive lifts. After Cinderella dashes away, the devastated prince searches high and low for his new love, sparkling slipper in hand. He encounters a goofy trio of cobblers (again Warring is a standout) and Butler and Henninger return as maidens from exotic lands who try to claim the slipper and prince as their own. Back at her house, Quirk recalls her magical night and when the prince arrives she reveals both herself and matching slipper to him. Happiness ever after ensues.
Fun surprises are sprinkled throughout, like a dancing Ashman (an excellent Andrew Erickson) who pops out of the fireplace and shares some sweet, playful moments with Cinderella.
Famed costumer designer Barbara Karinska’s fanciful and stunning costumes are a treat and are sure to keep even non-dance fans entertained. The children’s costumes are charming — ranging from radishes to wriggling fireflies. I could have done without the constant and tedious flapping of giant wings, but Cinderella’s stunning cape of glittering spider webs makes my quibbles seem petty. Steve Rubin’s masterful set transports the audience: When the huge staircase began to rotate as fog rolled in, I appreciated the care and expense the ballet company took to create this magical world.
Apprentice company member Reikersdorfer comes into her own in Cinderella, demonstrating she is ready to tackle major roles. Just a senior at Middleton high school, she seems has become more confident and mature than she was in the Nutcracker and Repertory I.
I’ve raved about Quirk before, so it’s not a surprise that she captivates here. She is the real deal —supple and strong with high extensions and sensitive musicality. She also is a compelling actress who shows Cinderella’s good nature and genuine delight in her adventure. Little girls will concur that she completely looks the part.
My only worry is that excellent dancers like Reikersdorfer and Quirk may be tempted to leave Madison for larger ballet companies — another reason to catch them at the Overture Center while you can.
Cinderella plays at 2 pm on Sunday March 29.