Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella” Review – A New Way to Tell an Old Story

Ashley Shaw as Cinderella and Andrew Monaghan as the Pilot in Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella” - Photo by Johan Persson

Directed by the forever original and creative choreographer Matthew Bourne, ballet master of the unique and unexpected, CINDERELLA shines – both as an enduring children’s fairy tale and as a musical carousel set to Prokofiev’s classic music. For this CINDERELLA is a child of the London blitz. Set during World War II, CINDERELLA fans the flames of war while weaving a love story for all times.

What of Cinderella’s godmother? Matthew Bourne has re-cast the iconic grandmotherly role as a slender silver-maned male angel attired completely in flashing silver togs. And Cinderella’s evil stepmother and sisters? Her stepmother may drink a bit too much – and too often – and see herself as a siren while ignoring her invalid husband’s needs. The two sisters now have the company of three brothers. Unfortunately, even with the increase in family members, none of them treat Cinderella any better than they did in times past.

Most audience members will remember the story of CINDERELLA from their childhoods. Matthew Bourne’s CINDERELLA is also unappreciated and unloved by her step-family and dreams of a happier and better life. Set in London during the Second World War, Cinderella’s “prince” is a dashing RAF pilot. The pair fall in love but are parted by the horrors of the blitz. They must rise above the chaos around them to finally live happily ever after.

With fluid movements and undulating bodies, Matthew Bourne’s world-class ballet troupe pay homage to a story which will hold up for all time. Perhaps most impressive of all is the second act of the production which takes place in the Café de Paris. From shambles, ashes, and the corpses of celebrants, Cinderella’s angel creates a magnificent elegant boite with sweeping gestures and pure magic. This reviewer had the opportunity to see CINDERELLA at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in 2019 and can’t help comparing the stage presentation to the filmed production. No doubt about it. Nothing could top seeing the renaissance of a classy nightclub – and then watching it crumble back into ruins – in live theater. My hair stood on end at the creation, and then destruction, of the Café de Paris. Audience members were pinned to their seats awestruck by the magic of live theater.

But that is not to say that the film didn’t have its many moments. Even with good theater seats, it was difficult (and sometimes impossible) to appreciate the expressions of the principals as the tale progressed. The intimate nature of film allowed the audience to see every nuance of the characters’ thoughts and feelings in a way which was nearly impossible onstage. Clearly, this is a group of dancers who know how to act. It was a fascinating opportunity to compare two different media, both with inherent strengths and weaknesses. But it was also intriguing to see how well they played off each other. If you’ve already seen the stage presentation, it’s well worth also watching the filmed production. You won’t be disappointed.

Matthew Bourne’s CINDERELLA premiered at 8 p.m. on January 15 and streams at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 17, 2021. There are five performances only. Tickets are $10. For information and reservations, go online.

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