“Cinderella” at San Francisco Ballet

“Cinderella” at SF Ballet

Carol Benet

“Cinderella” at the SF Ballet is a treat for the entire family.  The familiar folk tale is reinvented by the award winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon whose Tony Award winning “An American in Paris” brought ballet lovers as well as theater goers to Broadway in droves.  His “Cinderella”, last seen here 2013, is a return hit at our ballet.

Wheeldon with the well-known playwright Craig Lucas used both versions of “Cinderella”’, Charles Perrault’s and the Brothers Grimm’s.  This ballet starts with the heart-rendering scene when the young Cinderella (Kendall Foley) observes her mother’s (Ami Yuki) death and then joins her father (Tiit Helimets) at the graveside while the mother is carried away by four fates, dancers who reappear at other times in the ballet.  

The next scene (spectacular sets and costumes by Julian Crouch) is at the royal palace where the young prince (Aedan Grady) and his friend, the commoner Benjamin (Calder Feinstein), are playing wildly like boys will do.  They cause Madame Mansard (Katita Waldo) to drop a large valuable vessel.  

The next scene returns to the gravesite and Cinderella (now Frances Chung) is older, her father has remarried  and she has two new stepsisters, Edwina (Elizabeth Powell) and Clementine (Ellen Rose HummelI).  The relationship between all of them is tense from the beginning.  Cinderella becomes their housemaid, in charge of cleaning up the cinders of the hearth.  

The story progresses with King (Ricardo Bustamante) and Queen (Anita Paciotti) trying to convince the Prince that it is time for him to find the appropriate wife.   The prince now older (Joseph Walsh) and his friend (Esteban Hernandez) are rather tipsy and out of control.   

Then the scene returns to Cinderella’s kitchen where the stepmother and daughters prepare for the Royal ball. 

At this point comes a beggar (Prince in disguise) whom Cinderella invites in despite the other’s objection. Next Cinderella is transported to the ball in a gorgeous carriage in a stunning scene where all the spirits come out in fours and fives.  The tree in the backdrop created by Basil Twist and projections by Daniel Brodie with Natasha Katz’s lighting reflect their different color schemes as they all dance in separate groups are joined by the many students of the San Francisco Ballet School.

The Ball brings out many courtiers and three princesses, Russian Spanish and Balinese, in dances reminiscent of the exotic dancers in the “Nutcracker”.  We know what happens at the ball and afterwards from the fairy tales.  The last scene where dozens of women try to fit into Cinderella’s glass slipper that she lost on her dash to get home is hysterical.

Prokofiev’s music in this story ballet is fabulous, moving and touching.  It is on a par with his score for the ballet “Romeo and Juliet,” that closes the season in May.   The SF Ballet Orchestra conducted by Martin West is in high form for this demanding score.

“Cinderella” is the most spectacular and entertaining ballet of the season.  Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon knows how to please an audience of any age.  If you go to one program of the eight this season, don’t miss “Cinderella”.  It runs through February 2, 2020.  sfballet.org or 415 865 2000.  

About the Author

Carol BenetCarol Benet received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, where she won an Outstanding Teaching Award. She also received a B.A. in English and an M.A. in French Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. Her teaching assignments have been at UC Berkeley, UC Berkeley Extension, Dominican University and Washington State University. Currently she holds literature discussion groups in Marin County and San Francisco and is a critic of the arts for The Ark Newspaper and a contributor to ARTSSF.com and ForAllEvents.com.View all posts by Carol Benet →