By Olivia Fries-Farr ’19
Seated in the Ahmanson Theatre recently, I watched as a giant screen featuring a Blue Slipper rose on stage and a most unique version of “Cinderella” began. For this production, Matthew Bourne, director and choreographer, leads an amazingly talented group of artists and actor/dancers through a musical dance exploration set during World War II in 1940 in London, England.
Bourne’s return of his “Cinderella” — which made its debut in 1997 — has some extra-creative twists on classic characters based on the original fairytale story. The first visual is an old-style media “News Flash” about the war, and this medium is used throughout to create various environments along with a set that is predominantly black and white. The costumes are also black and white and elaborate for the time period.
The talent behind this unusually splendid musical-ballet are Etta Murfitt, the associate artistic director; Duncan Mclean, projection design; Paul Groothius, sound design; Neil Austin, lighting design; Lee Brotherston, set and costume design; and members of the New Adventures British Dance/Theater Company.
In my opinion, Matthew Bourne’s take on Cinderella is fascinating because of the original approach to some of the characters. For example, the Fairy Godmother is not a female. Rather, he is The Angel (Fairy Godfather) danced by Liam Mower. Another example is Prince Charming who is not a prince. Instead, he is the war Pilot danced by Andrew Monaghan. Additionally, Cinderella, danced by Ashley Shaw, does not have two evil stepsisters, she has a large family of five evil step-siblings.
The dancers performed incredibly by capturing and telling the story through emotion and movement. The actors also had amazing chemistry with one another. For example, the feelings between Cinderella and the Pilot were purely magnetic love. Although the classic Cinderella storyline was followed, it became obvious that the jealousy and horrible treatment of Cinderella’s ailing father, Robert, played by Alan Vincent, was the main focus and the reason for Cinderella’s fight to attain freedom from the family and attend the local ball.
The only downfall of this production was the lack of representation and diversity, which is confusing since the play is set in one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. In modern day America, it is necessary to have multiple races and ethnicities represented in productions that are in large or community theaters. As a result, it would seem appropriate to have multi-ethnic actors in productions around the world for today’s audiences.
Note: Michael Bourne’s “Cinderella” plays at the Ahmanson Theatre through March 10, so check out this production if you can!
Photo by Olivia Fries-Farr