Chasing Cinderella

Chasing Cinderella

I’ve been chasing productions of Cinderella for about four years now.

Cinderella is by no means my favorite fairy tale (I’m not even sure I have one, tbh). There’s something quite ridiculous, demeaning, and privileged about a man who cannot remember a woman’s face and instead relies on her fitting a lost shoe (but that’s an issue for another day). After seeing eight different productions of Cinderella (and one production twice), I’ve come to appreciate the versatility of this story. All you need is a woman and the perfect pair of shoes; she can change the world, or merely be selfish and fall in love (it’s 2019, you do you).

My quest started off by accident; the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical rolled through town at the same time the Disney live action movie came out. Some friends and I ended up watching both on the same day (yeah, we’re cool like that).

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella

Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Pantages, 2018

I absolutely loved the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical (I saw this twice, first in 2015 and again in 2018). It was so different from any version of the Cinderella story I had known up till then, and I absolutely loved the set and the costumes and the songs. The Disney live action, not so much. While I don’t deny it’s visually stunning, I felt like that Cinderella character was too passive, letting everything happen to her. (My friend begged to differ: his takeaway was, sometimes just being kind is enough.)

Later that year, the Mariinsky Ballet performed their version of Cinderella at the Music Center in LA. I had season tickets to the Music Center at this time, so naturally I went and saw it. I didn’t remember this performance at all, but I looked it up and watched a recorded version. The comments hated it, and the critics didn’t love it either, but upon rewatch, I actually really like it! It’s a more contemporary take on the choreography side, which I feel made it super fun. My dance training is heavily post-modern, so as much as I love classical ballet, my heart is open and sometimes partial to contemporary touches. It’s fun.

The following year, I was planning a trip to Chicago, and seeing the Joffrey Ballet was something I definitely needed to do. When I saw that the Joffrey was performing Cinderella that season, I knew I had to go. It was at this point that chasing productions of Cinderella around the world became a deliberate goal of mine.

National Ballet of Canada

National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre, Toronto 2016

Next up was a trip to Canada. My dates had been set already, but I looked up the National Ballet of Canada and coincidentally they were performing Cinderella while I was there! It was like the universe approved of my goal and was making it happen for me. I was really excited to see the National Ballet of Canada again ever since they brought Alice in Wonderland to LA. I hate Alice in Wonderland, but I absolutely loved the ballet version choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon.

The next trip, I planned around the San Francisco Ballet’s performance of Cinderella. I go to the Bay Area often, because family, so it wasn’t out of my way; I merely made an extra trip that year. Plus, it was Christopher Wheeldon’s version of Cinderella, so of course I had to see it. The Joffrey, the National Ballet of Canada, and SF Ballet’s versions all had absolutely stunning stage sets and costumes. And even though critics think Cinderella is one of Prokofiev’s weaker scores, I love the music.

San Francisco Ballet, 2017

It had been a couple of years since I saw the last Cinderella. There weren’t any productions coming through town, and I hadn’t had the time to travel to see companies performing Cinderella. And during my other travels, I either couldn’t change my dates to fit those performances, or the companies didn’t have it on schedule for that season. So I was super excited when Matthew Bourne brought his production of Cinderella to town!

I love Matthew Bourne, and have seen almost every show they’re brought to Los Angeles. But I have to admit, I think this is my least favorite version of Cinderella. The plot was confusing; my friends nitpicked on irrelevant things, like the number of step-siblings Cinderella had, but I didn’t like the big plot problems. Some scenes didn’t fit in with the general plot, or didn’t make sense, and Cinderella literally became a different person at the ball (she was originally a brunette, became a blonde for the ball, then reverted to being a brunette). But if you want to watch for the dancing, it’s definitely beautiful.

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella

Matthew Bourne, at the Ahmanson 2018

I’m definitely going to continue pursuing productions of Cinderella. It’s become a fun little hobby to add nuance to my travels, almost a tradition even. Do you have any traditions when traveling?


Photo by Emily Gouker on Unsplash

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