Most of us have grown up with some version of the fairytale Cinderella – whether that be the 1950 Disney animated film, or even the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales version in which Cinderella’s stepsisters chop off sections of their own feet to fit into the glass slipper and marry the prince. Perhaps you are even like this writer, whose vision of Cinderella was forever changed when she first witnessed the 1997 film version starring Whitney Houston as Fairy Godmother and Brandy Norwood in the title role.
Regardless, most have an idea in their mind when they hear mention of the fairytale, and this was likely true for the audience full of patrons of all ages who filed into the massive theatre at the Lyric Opera House on the opening night of their production. As young children skipped into the space next to their parents, it was easy for this writer to sense the excitement of what was to come.
Lyric Opera presents Cendrillon
With libretto by Henri Cain, based on the Charles Perrault 1698 fairytale of the same name, Cendrillon follows Lucette, or Cendrillon (Siobhan Stagg, with stunning vibrato), who decides to escape her miserable home life for one night to go to the ball. Unlike the popular Disney version, Lucette’s father, Pandolfe (Derek Welton) is alive, and stuck in a dead-end marriage with Mme. De la Haltière (Elizabeth Bishop), who runs the household with her daughters Noémie and Dorothée (Emily Pogorelc and Kayleigh Decker). Because Pandolfe finds himself powerless in his marriage, Lucette is still stuck in a life as the family servant, whose only joy stems from sitting next to the fireplace.
However, once Fairy Godmother (Marie-Eve Munger) arrives on the scene, everything changes for Lucette. Suddenly she is able to go to the ball and meet Prince Charming (Alice Coote). While she still must leave at midnight before the magic wears off, they still manage to fall in love, and will stop at nothing to find each other once again – with the help of Cendrillon’s Fairy Godmother, who acts as a magical guardian angel throughout the piece. As expected, the score is stunning, and offers exciting opportunities in this writer’s opinion for this ensemble of powerhouse voices to shine.
The second half of Act One takes place at the ball, and Director and Costume Designer Laurent Pelly certainly infuses this scene with glamour and extravagance. The royal color in the production is red, and Pelly outfits the female ensemble in red gowns of all shapes and sizes – one even with a lobster tail. Scenic Designer Barbara de Limburg further adds to the extravagance through a red carper that extends to the back of the stage, ending by a golden gate that represents the entrance to the palace.
Original Choreographer Laura Scozzi and Revival Choreographer Karine Girard in collaboration with Pelly add to the scene in their work on the piece – creating specific movement for each woman that makes her way to the prince. Some have trouble walking in their heels while others glide. A group of four women in matching red gowns even have their own dance number in which they try to impress the prince repeatedly, only to be dragged away by the guards. The scene culminates in a grand circle dance full of comedic, staccato movements in which the ensemble is lost in their enjoyment and Prince Charming is utterly bored – that is, until Cendrillon enters the room in her stunning white, sparkly gown – that beautifully contrasts with the red of the other women’s dresses. The scene acts as a prime example, in this writer’s opinion, of Pelly’s successful collaboration with the artistic team – transforming the ball into an aesthetically striking moment to remember.
While much of the production focuses on the stellar voices of the ensemble, Pelly finds some moments to utilize creative forms of movement in the midst of the arias to help highlight the themes.
In Act Two for example, Cendrillon and the Prince both run away into an enchanted forest in an attempt to find each other, only to be met by the Fairy Godmother who finally helps them find each other. The two become lost in the midst of the trees and dark of the night, and Pelly utilizes the ensemble to create multiple Princes and Cendrillons running through the forest – almost finding each other only to be pulled in a different direction at the last second. The chaos is exciting to watch unfold, and offers a creative way to share the characters’ frustration and time passing. When Fairy Godmother finally offers the light that allows the couple to find each other, the music changes, enhancing the beauty of the love they are finally able to express face to face.
A talented ensemble and striking design approach bring magical life to this familiar story.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Cendrillon/Lucette… Siobhan Stagg
Prince Charming… Alice Coote
Fairy Godmother… Marie-Eve Munger
Madame de la Haltière… Elizabeth Bishop
Pandolfe… Derek Welton
Dorothée… Kayleigh Decker
Dean of the Faculty… Josh Lovell
Master of Ceremonies…Christopher Kenney
First Minister…David Weigel
Conductors... Sir Andrew Davis and Francesco Milioto (January 11)
Director and Costume Designer… Laurent Pelly
Set Designer… Barbara de Limburg
Lighting Designer… Duane Schuler
Chorus Master… Michael Black
Original Choreographer… Laura Scozzi
Revival Choreographer… Karine Girard
Running through January 20, 2019
Wednesdays at 2:00pm
Thursdays at 7:00pm
Fridays at 7:00pm
Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm
Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, with intermission.
Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
For tickets and information, see the Lyric Opera of Chicago website.
Photos: Todd Rosenberg and Lyric Opera of Chicago
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.