Last night, thanks to the fabulous Meghan Macnamara, I was able to see Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre tackle one of my favorite fairy tales, Cinderella. I very much enjoyed Pittsburgh Musical Theatre’s rendition of it, and I couldn’t wait to see what the PBT would do and how they would interpret such a classic. Without further ado, my thoughts:
1. James Kronzer, Tony Tucci, Christina Ginnalli. No, they are not principal dancers or part of the Corps. They are, respectively, scenic designer, lighting designer and in charge of lighting recreation. The stage was set and man, it was beautiful. The trees that made up the forest looked so real I expected a squirrel to start running down a trunk at any moment. The prince’s castle was a dreamscape made with meticulous care that used mirrors and French windows to really trick the eyes. At one point, if you focused on the dancer in such a full-length mirror, it appeared as if they were spinning on clouds. And that starlit backdrop??? Oh I wanted to cry! Kronzer, Tucci and Ginnalli: excellent job.
2. Charles Barker and Judanna Lynn. Nope, still not dancers. Charles Barker was the maestro of the evening, conducting the PBT Orchestra with gusto and surgical precision. Not a beat was missed. And Judanna Lynn was tasked with the enviable job of creating the costumes….the Fairy Godmother’s dress….Cinderella’s ball gown…the stepsisters monstrous confections of a wardrobe. It was all breathtakingly wonderful, a pure kaleidoscope of color.
3. Christine Schwaner and Nurlan Abougaliev. Cinderella and the Prince. Ms. Schwaner was animated, girlish, and oh so fierce. In the first act, she danced with a focus more on character building and pantomime. In the second, girl was done transformed (!!) and rockin’ her new dress. Go on witcha bad self! She danced as if a fire inside was ignited, showcasing developes that were extended beyond belief, arabesques so straight and sharp Gillette should take notice and pirouettes you could bank your life on. In the third act, Ms. Schwaner brought her character back full-circle, showcasing a stronger, more sure Cinderella, both in spirit and in footwork.
Nurlan Abougaliev, whom I’ve had the pleasure to see in many shows, was his usual awesome self. Though several times throughout the night, I kept going back to what one of the animators at Disney said about crafting heroes: they can be boring. Wait wait, hear me out. Don’t x out of my site yet. I am in no way saying Mr. Abougaliev was boring. To the contrary, he was suave and romantic and his dancing was explosive. His port a bras, especially when he caressed Cinderella’s face in the third act, were so smooth and lovely they nearly made my heart explode with glee. And sorry, but that guy had to be wearing wires during his jetes. I think he could have cleared a Ford 150 with the vertical height he got. He was awesome…when he got to showcase it. Cinderella is, after all, the story of a girl’s transformation, so we got to see several shades of Ms. Schwaner’s title character. Mr. Abougaliev’s Prince was not so fortunate. He just remained handsome and wonderful throughout. Not a complaint, I just wished he got to dance more!
4. Alejandro Diaz and Robert Moore. Scene stealers. Every single time. Seriously. They were gaudy and fun, over the top and hysterical. Their body language was all like I dare you to look away! I am amazing! Both men threw themselves into their colorful roles and it paid off big. They certainly got the biggest laughs of the night – and the loudest applause. Their first act dance lesson with Christopher Budzynski’s dance master (who was amazing, by the way) deserved a standing ovation all on its own. Imagine Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball at their primes and you have an idea of the tour de force performance misters Diaz and Moore gave. Robert Moore was especially surprising, considering I’ve seen this guy dance the romantic lead in several shows. Talk about transformation!
5. Corey Bourbonniere, Nicholas Coppula, Danielle Downey, Stephen Hadala, Olivia Kelly, Yoshiaki Nakano, Makoto Ono, Joseph Parr, Caitlin Peabody, Joanna Rose Schmidt, Casey Taylor, Gabrielle Thurlow, Cooper Verona, Molly Wright, Kaori Yanagida and the rest of the dancers that made up the Prince’s court, the Fairy Godmother’s snow angels and dragonflies and butterflies and bumblebees…exceptional talents. They were unified, in sync, and the real graceful, glorious glue that kept the whole show together.
Basically, this show was the diamond in PBT’s crown of a season full of rubies and precious gems. From Giselle to Moulin Rouge, from the dark and gritty to the light and comedic, it’s been a wonderful season. So thank you to all the people who made it possible. You let me escape relentless, depressing news for a pure two hours of make believe and fun. You gave me an ending to cheer for and cherish.
As a final note….speaking of endings to cheer for…great job, Boston PD.