Pacific Northwest Ballet kicked off its big 40th anniversary season with Kent Stowell’s Cinderella. This beloved crowd pleaser was performed two years ago, but is just as fresh, exciting and enjoyable ever. Saturday evening’s performance was a beautiful reminder of just how wonderful a classic fairytale story can be.
The evening’s performance featured Kaori Nakamura as the young and severely mistreated Cinderella. While Nakamura’s dancing was technically flawless and every bit as charming as you’d expect, what really stood out for me was her ability to “tell a story”. Her dancing drew me deep into her character’s world and (no joke) left me with tears in my eyes more than once, such as when she received her gifts (shimmering “glass” slippers, anyone?) from her Fairy Godmother and finally said “I do” to her handsome prince. Bravo!
And speaking of the prince, Jonathan Poretta did an outstanding job as His Royal Highness. While Poretta famously brings the more “humorous” character roles to life, I’ve got to say – he knows when to turn on the charm and can embody the role of “Handsome Prince” like no other! Poretta – like Nakamura – is a masterful storyteller, able to convey a variety of emotions (and quite possibly leap tall buildings) in a single bound.
Jessika Anspach and Marisa Albee lit up the stage as the mean, selfish and awkward Stepsisters. Albee, a former PNB soloist turned faculty member, was one of the original Stepsisters when the production premiered in 1994, which made watching her performance a deliciously rare treat! Albee and Anspach pulled out all the stops and left the audience in stitches with their zany antics. Everything from clumsy dancing to bold attempts at grabbing the Prince’s attention was met with plenty of giggles and applause.
The Jester (who doubles as the Prince’s right hand man) was performed by Kyle Davis, who – up until that moment – really hadn’t been on my radar much. (Ahem) However all that changed the moment Davis entered the scene. He immediately captured – and held – my interest. Everything Davis did felt natural, not forced or like he was “trying too hard” to get a laugh. He simply WAS the Jester. Quite honestly, I thought he must have taken a few lessons in Characterization 101 from Mr. Poretta himself, because his performance felt distinctly “Jonathan-ish”. His performance drew so many laughs, so many gasps of delight, it was incredible. (High five!)
And what PNB production would be complete without a charming cast of young dancers? Darling Memory Children, enchanted Bugs, stern Pumpkins, impish Sprites and lovely Fairy Attendants danced, twirled and jumped their way across the big stage, leaving their own indelible mark of sweetness on this already luscious season opener.
Andrew Bartee was another young man who stood out with his portrayal of the Dancing Master. No joke – Bartee is the man to watch! He was spirited, enchanting and so freaking funny my stomach hurt from laughing so much. He was great! I can’t wait to see more of him throughout the season.
If you haven’t purchased your tickets to this lavish production – umm, what are you waiting for? Consider this your official Royal Invitation to the Ball!
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella runs through September 30th. Get your tickets by calling 206-441- 2424 or by visiting PNB.org.
Denise Opper – Media for Class Act Tutu