Ballet West’s Cinderella Enchants and Delights

February 15, 2013
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Christopher Ruud, Arolyn Williams and Easton Smith. Photo Erik Ostling

Christopher Ruud, Arolyn Williams and Easton Smith. Photo Erik Ostling

We all know the story of Cinderella; the lonely, oft-abused sister is granted a magical night at the royal ball only to lose her slipper on her hurried departure, yet finds true love after the Prince discovers her identity through that lost slipper.  It has for generations delighted children around the world.  This week and next, Ballet West puts a slight spin on it.  The story has the same happy ending, but how Ballet West delights the audience is nothing short of genius.

A single photo posted last year hooked me.  It showed Arolyn Williams as Cinderella, and Christopher Ruud and Easton Smith has her wickedly comical stepsisters.  A photo is worth a thousand words, but the only four words it spoke to me were, “Get Thee to Cinderella!”

By all accounts, Cinderella was going to be a “must see” this season. Artistic Director Adam Sklute spoke of the enormous undertaking, and the production utilizes Ballet West II and Ballet West Academy children to fill cast roles.  Additionally, the score was composed by Sergei Prokofiev and I had heard marvelous things about this music!

I was very excited to see Cinderella on opening night, and I brought with me 2 friends and a six year old little girl who we kept the surprise from until we got to Capitol Theatre.  As we arrived, her eyes grew big and she found it difficult to contain her excitement, and I easily became more excited for her than myself as this would be her first ballet!

Arolyn Williams and Haley Henderson Smith. Photo Erik Ostling

Arolyn Williams and Haley Henderson Smith. Photo Erik Ostling

As the lights dimmed and the Utah Chamber Orchestra performed the Overture, I couldn’t help but become immersed in the fairy tale.  The music was so beautiful! The magic had begun!

The first thing I noticed were the stepsisters.  There sat Christopher Ruud and Easton Smith, the most beautiful sisters a girl could wish for…. OK, scratch that. But there they sat, and I couldn’t help but laugh.  Their noses were huge, they were extremely tall, they were quite affected, and they were about to steal the show.  They were, in a word, hilarious!

Easton Smith, the taller sister in yellow with bright green shoes, accentuated every pose, every turn, every expression.  And Christopher Ruud, pretty in pink, a bit more shy and demure, matched her sister bow to bow, turn to turn, curtsey to curtsey.  What a pair they made, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.

I’ve never seen Arolyn Williams in a role that I didn’t love.  Her petiteness contrasted her stepsisters perfectly, and she was sweet, compassionate and loving, and dreamed of simple happiness.  And who better to fulfill Cinderella’s dreams than a Fairy Godmother?  Haley Henderson Smith, who reminded me of Glinda the Good Witch, floated across the stage like an angel.  She is exquisite and graceful, and her long, extending arms flow effortlessly across the air.  Gosh I love ballerinas!

Christopher Ruud and Easton Smith. Photo Erik Ostling

Christopher Ruud and Easton Smith. Photo Erik Ostling

At the ball we first see the jester Christopher Sellars.  I was thrilled to see Chris in this role because it reminds me of the first time I saw him perform in 2009.  Chris left an indelible impression on me as he danced Puck in The Dream, and this role as the jester is probably the most similar role I’ve seen him perform.  His smile never fails to make me smile, and his performance this opening night lit up the stage!

Tom Mattingly was the Prince.  It was wonderful to see Tom in this role, and it might have been the first time I’ve seen him as the lead, as the hero.  Tom danced beautifully, and he was a regal Prince for our Cinderella!

After Cinderella hurriedly leaves the ball and returns home, the Prince searches for his mysterious young lady, asking all women in his kingdom to try on the glass slipper.  The stepsisters back home appear amusingly tipsy, and upon the Prince’s arrival turn on the charm and try to force the glass slipper on their own feet.  I laughed so hard! Alas, Cinderella mistakenly drops her own slipper, the Prince sees it, she tries it on, and the slipper fits perfectly.  And… they all live happily ever after.

There is so much to love about this performance.  Ballet West continues to set the bar higher after each production, and this, after Dracula, is my second favorite they’ve produced.  The music performed by the orchestra was outstanding.  On its own, it is stunning.  Paired with the ballet, it is perfection! Most memorable were the moves of the stepsisters, perfectly in time with each punctuated note.  Easton Smith and Chris Ruud never missed a beat and it made the ballet even more enjoyable.

"I loved the Prince and Cinderella the most!"

“I loved the Prince and Cinderella the most!”

The dancers were abundant and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that many onstage in a single production.  And the costumes were spectacular. They are easily the most vibrant and most beautiful costumes I’ve seen of any Ballet West production.  Everything from the tutus to the ball gowns to even Cinderella’s rags were gorgeous.  And can we talk about the sets for a minute? Wow! They were enormous! And lastly, the carriage, which sadly only appeared for about 30 seconds, was stunning.  What a shame we didn’t get to see more of that!

I cried during the most sentimental parts, and I laughed heartily at the stepsisters. They made me giggle so much! Even as the curtain lowered, Easton Smith still competitive with his sister, made me laugh.  As the dancers took their bows, the audience jumped to their feet in applause.

So entertained we were by this Cinderella, and so grateful am I that we have such an amazing Company that gives its heart and soul to each performance.  If I had one regret, it would be that I couldn’t see it a second time.  Our six-year old aspiring ballerina loved the Prince and Cinderella most of all, and she took home a glass slipper to mark the occasion.  Cheers to you all! And Bravo!

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