Lyric Theatre, QPAC
September 7, 2018
Queensland Ballet brings one of the world’s most beloved fairy-tales to the Lyric Theatre at QPAC, and its production of Cinderella is a magical experience for all ages. The ballet adheres to the classic fairy-tale; Cinderella, scorned by her stepmother and teased by her spoiled stepsisters, attends the royal ball in disguise and wins the heart of the Prince with the help of her fairy godmother. Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella formed part of Artistic Director Li Cunxin’s inaugural season with Queensland Ballet in 2013 and was the first of Stevenson’s choreographic works that the company shared with Australian audiences. First premiering in 1970, Stevenson’s interpretation is one of the most frequently staged productions in modern times, and Queensland Ballet brings out the best of its humour and romance.
Yanela Piñera. Photo © David Kelly
Stevenson’s choreography captures perfectly the daydreaming and frustration of Cinderella’s servitude, and the drama of her departure from the ball at midnight. The ballet is packed with action, but the pacing felt slightly off-kilter, with a few of the most magical moments sweeping by when I wanted them to linger. The transformation of the pumpkin into a magnificent horse-drawn carriage and of Cinderella’s rags into a sparkling ball gown is the climax of Act I, but the moment flew past as the curtain fell for interval. In contrast, the first part of Act I ran for longer than was perhaps needed to establish the family power dynamics of the stepsisters as favoured daughters, and Cinderella’s father (Dylan Lackey) as powerless to prevent his new wife (Janette Mulligan) from mistreating his daughter. Act II and Act III felt more evenly paced, and ample time was given to the romance between Cinderella and the Prince, during the ball and later at their wedding in the enchanted glade.
Joel Woellner and Yanela Piñera. Photo © David Kelly
Yanela Piñera was impressively emotive and expressive in the role of Cinderella, more so than in any role I have seen her perform since she joined the company in 2015. She had a playful and joyful rapport with the Prince (Joel Woellner) and together they executed impressive lifts and tender pas de deux. Piñera’s fully realised extensions, precise footwork, exquisite balance, and sustained poses were a pleasure to watch, complemented in their partner work by Woellner’s impressive allegro work and fouetté turns.
Vito Bernasconi and Camilo Ramos were laugh-out-loud funny in the slapstick roles of Cinderella’s stepsisters with spot-on timing, brilliant characterisation, and physical comedy. Their solo performances at the royal ball were a comedic highlight, as was the dramatic overacting as they tried to squeeze their feet into the glass slipper.
Camilo Ramos. Photo © David Kelly
Liam Geck demonstrated superb athleticism, elevation, and character as the acrobatic Jester, performing incredible leaps, cartwheels and tumbles with clean landings. Lisa Edwards performed with flexibility, quick footwork, and lovely arabesques as the glittering Fairy Godmother, accompanied by Dragonflies Jack Lister, David Power, Rian Thompson, and Alexander Idaszak. The fairies of Spring (Lina Kim), Summer (Mia Heathcote), Autumn (Neneka Yoshida) and Winter (Georgia Swan) summoned by the Fairy Godmother were very synchronised in their movements, with neat footwork, articulate arms, and lovely pirouettes, and their canon choreography was beautifully executed.
The corps de ballet injected their own personality into this production, particularly in their interactions and reactions to Cinderella’s stepsisters at the royal ball. The lifts and spins in canon were very visually effective, and the dancers kept good time with one another.
Lisa Edwards. Photo © David Kelly
Several young Queensland Ballet Academy Associate Program Students also joined the company on stage as Angels (Elena Davies, Chloe Abdy, Kenzie Andrews, Ella Cunningham, Jessica Edwards and Jazmin Adams) and Crown Bearers (Xavier Xue and Patrick Davis) in the final scene.
Prokofiev’s score was beautifully performed by the Queensland Festival Philharmonic, conducted by Queensland Ballet Music Director and Principal Conductor, Nigel Gaynor. Sets designed by Thomas Boyd were full of depth and detail, and lavish costumes designed by Tracy Grant Lord were a feast for the eyes. Lighting design by David Walters, recreated by Cameron Goerg, immersed the audience and created smooth transitions between sets and scenes.
The Queensland Ballet dancers breathe so much personality and life into their performance of these well-known characters, making Cinderella a playful, magical, and unexpectedly funny production that will delight fans of the fairy-tale at any age.