Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella”, now on stage at The Ahmanson, is an evocative modern fairy tale told through dance. What begins as a dark story set in London in 1940 as bombs fall on the war-torn city, evolves into an extravaganza of dance and theatre magic.
For the uninitiated, Matthew Bourne is a sensation in London’s West End having choreographed and directed several popular theatrical dance versions of Swan Lake, The Red Shoes, Edward Scissorhands and more. He has his own company of dancer/actors and creates these often dark, grown-up fairy tale performance pieces.
Based on the classic fairy tale of Cinderella, many of the usual suspects are here from the wicked step-mother and haughty step-sisters, her father is wheelchair bound, and there are added step-brothers and one rather creepy uncle(?) along with people on the streets of London and at the “ball”. The prince is a handsome RAF pilot and the fairy godmother is a male angel dressed in an all-white satin suit.
The grey pallor of war eventually gives way to dream-like sequences replete with glamorous gowns, champagne and chandeliers. The stagecraft of it all is indeed impressive throughout from the giant clock that the Angel turns back to create a magnificent “Café de Paris” where Cinderella descends a gorgeous staircase and into a glorious pas de deux with her pilot to destroyed, burned out London architecture after The Blitz.
There is a tradition of pantomime in England that is on full display throughout this dance show giving it a vibrant theatricality. The first half hour is spent introducing the characters and the world but once Cinderella ventures out into the streets of London, the dancing shifts into high gear invoking a sort of “American in Paris” feel that sweeps you up into the fantasy of it all.
The most effective choreography comes when the Angel “causes” Cinderella to move. The dancers execute this beautifully giving the proceedings a distinctly magical tone and special mention must be made of the exquisite Liam Mower as the Angel. The group numbers are especially notable for how beautifully the male dancers are featured and the bedroom pas de deux between Ashley Shaw as Cinderella and Andrew Monaghan as the pilot is infused with ache and longing. There are moments of seduction and sensuality that set this piece squarely in the PG-13 realm. I mention that only because as much as it is inspired by the Cinderella story, this show is clearly a grown-up fantasy and should be enjoyed as such.
Setting things in this very dramatic and heartbreaking moment in history gives the story a depth and urgency that has you rooting for the couple as they struggle to find one another through the harsh realities of war.
Lex Brotherston’s sets and costumes perfectly re-create the era and mood. The surround sound was very effective and although I miss having a live orchestra for a piece such as this, the high quality sound went a long way to make up for it as it boomed out the hypnotizing Prokofiev score. The entire company is top notch and the whole evening is sure to please. What a pleasure it is to see dance being lifted up and supported with such a large scale production.
Cinderella continues through March 10, 2019.
Tickets for Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella” are available by calling (213) 972-4400, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, or by visiting the Center Theatre Group Box Office located at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets range from $30 – $175 (ticket prices are subject to change). The Ahmanson Theatre is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, 90012.