Directed by Janet Lewis, the English Youth Ballet’s production of Cinderella In Hollywood was truly exquisite. Comprised of dancers from the ages of 8 to 18, the English Youth Ballet spotlights the talent of these dancers in different productions around the United Kingdom.
Set in the era of 1950s Hollywood movies and drawing inspiration from the film star Grace Kelly who met her future husband, Prince Rainer of Monaco, at a press party, this production is unlike any ballet that I’ve seen before, with the use of Shostakovich jazz suites and spectacular costume being unusually stunning.
Made up of three acts, Cinderella In Hollywood diverts slightly from the traditional story of Cinderella, with the fairy godmother being the spirit of Cinderella’s dead mother, played by Claire Corruble, who inspires Cinderella’s friends to provide her with an outfit for the party.
“The production encapsulated the glamour of Hollywood in the twentieth century perfectly”
By setting the ballet in a specific time frame rather that sticking with the abstract time frame of the traditional tale, Costume Designer Keith Bish was able to draw inspiration from the fashion trends of the twentieth century. From flapper dresses, to retro vintage 60s sundresses, to the elegant evening wear of Cinderella, played by Monica Tapiador, the production encapsulated the glamour of Hollywood in the twentieth century perfectly.
The set was gorgeous, with the production using simple yet effective backdrops that set the scene wonderfully. One of the most beautiful moments in the production was at the end of the first half, when a hand painted star backdrop was brought to life by the layers of individual twinkling light bulbs suspended on wires. The accompaniment of set and lighting made this moment truly magical, with some of the young dancers dressed up as stars while Cinderella delicately moved down Hollywood Boulevard on her way to the party.
“So much talent from children of such young ages”
One of the most impressive parts of the production was witnessing so much talent from children of such young ages. It was incredible to observe the hard work and dedication that the children had put in to making it the excellent production it was. I honestly felt as though I was witnessing the birth of many stars, and I can only commend the English Youth Ballet for giving these children such an opportunity.
Despite the entertaining nature of the ugly stepsisters, I didn’t agree with the casting choice of one of the ugly stepsisters, Christabel, played by Steven Wheeler. Christabel trotted around the stage in a Cruella de Vil styled outfit, and completely contrasted to the angelic appearance of the remaining dancers. It seemed that the production was attempting to associate the male elements of Christabel’s femininity as ugly, which reinforced a rather backward view of gender.
“Some parts of the production were missing the seamlessness that every good ballet requires”
I felt that some parts of the production were missing the seamlessness that every good ballet requires, with there often being too many dancers on stage on one time, making the stage appear crowded and taking away from the elegance of the immediate stage action. Furthermore, for me, every good ballet requires a constant use of appropriate facial expressions to reinforce the plot and to tell the story effectively. Despite this, I felt that at some points during the production there was a lack of these facial expressions, which made me question the relevance of the action on stage.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Cinderella in Hollywood; the production combined the elegance and beauty of a traditional ballet with the glitz and glamour of 1950s Hollywood, which resulted in a visually stunning performance.
Featured image courtesy of Ben Garner – English Youth Ballet.