Despite New York Theatre Ballet gearing its tightly edited, hour-long rendition, of Cinderella towards children, NYTB had tough, abundantly vocal, critics on Sunday afternoon, all of whom were under three feet tall.
“She’s wasting TIME!” said one three year old as Cinderella’ indulged in a lengthy pre-game celebration before the ball, waltzing with the Fairy Godmother and their fairy friends. Indeed, Cinderella seemed positively reckless given her midnight deadline but she did, in fact, make it to the ball.
Choreographed by Donald Mahler, NYTB’s abridged Cinderella, like many others before it, owes a large debt to Sir Frederick Ashton. Set to excerpts from Sergei Prokofiev’s spiky score, the choreography is pleasant and features the usual suspects: Cinderella’s melancholic broom pas de deux, camp ugly stepsisters in drag, an odd dance master/teacher, several waltzes and a romantic pas de deux. The individual fairy variations are missing, but two fairies bolster the Fairy Godmother’s wand-waving activities.
Gillian Bradshaw-Smith’s sets are effective, the most wondrous for the children being four tall wooden panels painted in mystical blues with metallic celestial details. These come and go depending on the magic being conjured and as a transitional necessity between scenes. A clock featuring a white-gloved human hand also provides a nice comic, absurdist note.
Amanda Treiber is an accomplished Cinderella and communicates successfully to the tiny tots: she is mournful at appropriate times (“She’s so sad!”), blushes at the prince (“She likes him!”), and a winning dancer at the ball (“She’s better than all of them”). And yes, the commentary was constant.
NYTB’s resident nobleman, Steven Melendez, was a perfectly regal prince, his high leaps in grand allegro making the Florence Gould stage appear larger than it was. Courtiers at the ball wound round another and engaged in an assortment of lifts. Elena Zahlmann shone as the Fairy Godmother, holding pitch perfect balances and well-timed pique turns.
The battle between the step-sisters was won by Mitchell Kilby, whose exaggerated gestures outdid Michael Wells’ limp, half-hearted execution. Both step-sisters deserve at least one costume investment: larger bustles to bring home the comedic activities of their backsides. Their brash behavior at the ball would benefit from some tighter comedy and choreography as the generic prancing wears thin quickly.
Choreographically, given three performances in a day and a micro-sized troupe, one perhaps can’t expect too much. Still the pas de deux featured some pleasant and pretty lifts, spins and bounding leaps from the prince. While this troupe is known for its Ashton revivals, there was little in the way of fancy footwork in Cinderella; the male dancers had grand, rather than petit allegro steps. The majority of the courtier choreography at the ball was fairly pedestrian except for some awkward partnering moments which could do with a revisit.