Almost everyone has heard of Cinderella, the stepdaughter ignored and abused by her family who, with the assistance of her fairy godmother, finds love and happiness. Matthew Bourne has taken this popular fairy tale and added dimensions to the story through music and dance. Set in blitz-torn World War II London, Cinderella must pursue her fate through shrill air raid warnings, bombs blasting, and the ever-present dramatic music of Prokofiev. It is almost prophetic that Prokofiev’s music was actually written during World War II – and now serves as the motif for this account of love conquering all.
There is no dialog in Matthew Bourne’s CINDERELLA. All is projected through effortless dance to melodies which let us know in no uncertain terms the emotions coursing through every character’s being. Some tips are offered through bits of newsreels, old snapshots, some cinematic moments, and exquisite lighting and sound. For this is a multimedia productions which weds music, dance, and the digital world around us. At the same time, CINDERELLA also brings together past and present to create an intriguing new whole.
This Cinderella (Ashley Shaw) is a gray mouse shoved aside by her sozzled, life-of-the-party stepmother (Madelaine Brennan) and her frolicking step-sisters and step-brothers. While her crippled father (Alan Vincent) stares morosely from his wheelchair, Cinderella is caught up in a world without hope. Enter her guardian angel (Liam Mower) – attired in sparkling white – and everything will soon change.
Soon the scene jumps to an eerie Café de Paris, where corpses line the floor and destruction is everywhere – but clearly Cinderella’s angel can change all that. At his command, the ruination is gone in a magical backwards transformation. The café is alive with life and joie de vivre as a new and elegant Cinderella sweeps down the stairs in her glowing white gown and begins to accept the adulation of every guy in the place. But she has eyes for only one – Harry, the pilot (Andrew Monaghan). And he has eyes and every other part of himself focused on her. Yet, soon, the enchantment will fade and the Café de Paris will again turn to dust. Not to worry, as everyone who was ever exposed to CINDERELLA knows. Through thick and thin, the battle scarred prince will find his true love, all the while clutching the shoe she left behind.
Matthew Bourne’s CINDERELLA is at turns glorious and at turns poignant. Lez Brotherston’s costumes remain black and gray, much like an old film from the era. Only the new and improved Cinderella and her guardian angel manage to break the mold in shining white. Lez Brotherston is also credited with the set – and it is a fascinating set – most especially in the Café de Paris segment in Act II. Directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, CINDERELLA makes excellent use of Duncan McLean’s projection, Paul Groothuis’ sound, and Neil Austin’s lighting. In an earlier interview, Bourne indicated that several films of the time inspired the direction he took in this fable, including “A Matter of Life and Death” (1946), “Brief Encounter” (1945),”Waterloo Bridge” (1940), and “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947). It was riveting to note that the famous bombing of the legendary Café de Paris actually took place on March 8, 1941, killing or seriously injuring nearly 100 dancing couples. The recorded Prokofiev music in surround sound was provided by Brett Morris, who conducted an 82-piece orchestra several months ago. CINDERELLA is a creative and absorbing take on an old fairy tale. Music, dance, and Matthew Bourne’s special touch have made a new classic. It should be noted that CINDERELLA is double cast, so that different audiences may see different dancers.
CINDERELLA runs through March 10, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets range from $30 to $175. For information and reservations, call 213-972-7231 or go online.