Northern Ballet in Cinderella, Leeds Grand Theatre, until January 2 2020. Box office: 0844 848 2700 or at leedsgrandtheatre.com
FOR the most magical Christmas show of this winter, look no further than Northern Ballet’s revival of Cinderella, first staged at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2013.
The prettiest, most breath-taking transformation of Yorkshire’s winter theatre wonderland is back, three bounding huskies et al.
The Cinderella story exists in myriad forms across the world and through the ages, our British pantomimes being the most familiar but also the most misleading when presented with the Eastern mysticism of Canadian artistic director, choreographer and costume designer David Nixon and his associate director Patricia Doyle’s beautiful, painfully romantic interpretation.
Set in Imperial Russia at a time when “superstitious people believe in the possibility of magic” and the repressive authorities believe in the power of gun rule and constantly barking dogs, Northern Ballet’s oriental fairy-tale production opens in a burst of yellow flowers beneath the deepest blue sky on the hottest of days, far removed from pantomime’s glitter and chintz.
Out go the Fairy Godmother and Buttons, pumpkins and cross-dressing Ugly Sisters. In come acrobats and a towering stilt walker, a bear and huskies, a kindly Easter magician (the wonderful Ashley Dixon); a servant who ends up being shot for helping Cinderella and skaters sashaying across a frosted lake.
Cinderella’s anything but ugly stepsisters, Natasha and Sophia (Kyungka Kwak and Rachael Gillespie) are not wild cards but wholly subservient to the despicably wicked yet immaculately fashionable step-mother, Countess Serbrenska (Minju Kang, roundly booed but soon cheered at the end after her fabulously theatrical performance).
Duncan Hayler’s set design has the sleight of hand of a magician, not only in the transformation scene where the kitchen comes alive but also when the invitation envelope to the royal ball is peeled open to reveal a dazzling, white ballroom. Philip Feeney’s compositions, gorgeous throughout, bring even more of a flourish to Hayler’s works of wonder.
Yet the designs never out-dazzle Sarah Chun’s put-upon but blossoming Cinderella or Jonathan Hanks’s powerful Prince Mikhail.
A glorious show in a well-deserved return, Cinderella is Northern Ballet at Nixon’s very best.