Theatre review: "Cinderella" is the first true Edwaard Liang production

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Since Edwaard Liang became BalletMet Columbus artistic director in 2013, audiences have seen mostly brief and abstract works from him as a choreographer. But like Cinderella, the title character of the first full-length work he has created for his new company, Liang is the belle of this particular ball. “Cinderella” is only the second story ballet he’s ever written and reportedly the first time he has ever choreographed for children.

Introducing the work from the stage, Liang noted that each performance of this world premiere includes 49 BalletMet Dance Academy students. In the several scenes that prominently feature the young dancers, Liang showcases a nicely developing facility for moving them smoothly and playfully around the stage.

Liang opens with a prologue that finds the grown Cinderella encountering her once-happy family and reliving the death of her beloved mother, establishing a pre-stepfamily context for the story. From there on, it’s the story you know, set to the 1945 score composed by Sergei Prokofiev for Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet. BalletMet borrowed the impressive sets and costumes from the Washington (D.C.) Ballet.

Casts vary, but with the Stepmother (Alexandra Dickson), Stepsisters (Jessica Brown and Samantha Lewis), Master of Ceremonies (Attila Bongar), and Jester (Martin Roosaare), Liang proves he can choreograph comedy that doesn’t overdo the silliness. His great strengths, though, lie in the solos and duets he has set for Cinderella (Caitlin Valentine Ellis) and her Prince (David Ward). In Act II, they trade love-struck solos, then share their swirling duet before midnight strikes. In Act III, Liang provides a gorgeously sweeping, if subdued, pas de deux for the reunited lovers.

Liang’s “Cinderella” includes the pratfalls that will tickle its youngest audiences, the romantic passages that will enchant the balletomanes, and enough promise to convince us the artistic director’s shoe fits his foot stylishly.

Photos by Jennifer Zmuda

BalletMet dancer Adrienne Benz is pictured above.

Riffe Center, Capitol Theatre

77 S. High St., Downtown

Through Sunday, March 29