After the amazing success of our last performance Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet, we thought it would be great to bring back guest blogger Megan Hobbs to tell you all what she thought of this one-of-a-kind performance. Megan is a huge fan of Ballet Fantastique (she was lucky enough to catch both shows) and seems to sum up perfectly what it’s like to be sitting in the audience at one of our shows. So without further ado, here are Megan’s thoughts on Ballet Fantastique’s latest performance (and as always, feel free to share your thoughts with us as well–we love hearing from you!)
THOUGHTS ON BALLET FANTASTIQUE’S CINDERELLA: A ROCK OPERA BALLET FROM MEGAN HOBBS:
Almost everyone knows the story of Cinderella, but I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen it brought to life quite like the recent performance by Ballet Fantastique. In this creative new take on the classic fairytale set in Sunnydale, California in 1964, the stepmother and stepsisters sport adorable polka-dot dresses and bouffant hairdos. They learn to dance the “mashed potato” and dream of marrying the prince to the tune of “Mr. Sandman.” The dancers’ performance was packed with oomph and style, and made the audience sit up and pay attention from the time the chords to the first song were played. This was Cinderella with attitude.
One of the many unique aspects of this show was the collaboration between the dancers and the live band that accompanied them onstage, The Agents of Unity. It is actually difficult to say who accompanied whom, because the musicians shined just as much as the dancers did. These two extremely talented groups complimented one another perfectly, creating a palpable energy that could be felt by the audience and the performers alike. Throughout the performance, Eugene’s Ambassador for the Arts, Fred Crafts, narrated the story by acting as radio DJ and announcing the goings-on in Sunnydale.
The show opened with “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” where the stepsisters, played with plenty of personality by Ashley Bontrager and Krislyn Wessel, fought over a cute scarf and ordered Cinderella around. The back-and-forth sister relationship was hilarious, and the two teased and picked on each other while still dancing gracefully on pointe. Meanwhile, Cinderella twirled around them with a mop, danced by Allana Fisher. Fisher’s stage presence fit the character of “Cindy” perfectly: all her movements were smooth, poised, and demure. I was also amazed at her endurance by the end of the show, as she was in nearly every piece. Next, enter Amelia Unsicker with a martini glass and a shimmy, in the part of Cindy’s stepmother. As always, Unsicker brought tons of attitude and flair with her onto the stage and got a lot of laughs from the audience with her antics. She did a great impression of a 1960’s housewife, alternately flouncing and stumbling (again, always gracefully) around the stage. She held her martini glass in one hand and a long cigarette holder in the other, primping and pushing her daughters at the prince anytime she got the chance.
The band fired up “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes while the fairy godmother of Sunnydale (Leanne Mizzoni) convinced the prince (Fredrick Davis, Dance Theatre of Harlem) to hold a ball to help find his dream girl. Mizzoni danced with precision and energy and Davis looked the perfect part for the handsome prince as he took many effortless turns around the stage. In the next scene an expert from “Dancing Divas Inc.” went door to door to teach the town how to dance. The instructor was played by none other than Hannah Bontrager in a fluffy blonde Marilyn Monroe-esque wig, who brought pizazz to the stage with her groovy “new” move, the mashed potato. The stepsisters tried to learn it unsuccessfully, while Cindy picked it up immediately.
In a very cool rendition of “Tell Him” by Billie Davis, Mizzoni and her two “Fairy Godmother’s Boys” played by Justin Feimster and Gianluca Paparo, brought Cindy a beautiful gown for the ball. When everyone arrived at the dance, H. Bontrager and Elijah Labay (NW Dance Project) entered in leather jackets and tight pants (and pointe shoes for H. Bontrager) in a style reminiscent of Greasers crashing the prom. They danced to “Wild Thing” with choreography inspired by Twyla Tharp. Both dancers performed with so much charisma and stage presence that the entire audience was transfixed. Cindy and the prince danced the night away to the Crystals and the Drifters until the clock struck the magical hour of midnight and Cindy lost her glass slipper, or in this case her pointe shoe.
The last part of the show was very entertaining—the stepsisters and stepmother tried to make Cindy’s slipper fit on one of their feet to the tune of “My Boyfriend’s Back” and the prince finally realized Cindy had been under his nose the whole time. The whole company then came together onstage for a final group dance featuring the twist, the mashed potato and jive steps. The lovers were then featured one more time in the encore to the tune of “Be my Baby” by the Ronettes. The dancers and musicians received an enthusiastic standing ovation at each of their two sold-out performances, and I don’t think I am alone in saying that I liked Ballet Fantastique’s version better than the original.
Photo Credit: David Putzier