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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The clock strikes Thursday for Cinderella

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 5:39 PM

You can be sure that North Carolina Dance Theatre didn’t offer copies of Bruno Bettelheim’s famous Cinderella: A Story of Sibling Rivalry and Oedipal Conflicts for sale in the lobby at their first subscriber performance at the new Knight Theater. But they did something nearly as clueless and market-dumb. They scheduled the opening of their 10-performance run of Cinderella on a school night. With Charlotte Symphony performing at Belk Theater the following evening, the Thursday night performance was a godsend for local critics who would be reviewing both events.

But the demographic for the charms of Kara Wilkes as the fairy godmother and the antics of Mark Diamond as the wicked stepmother skews to a younger age, one that is expected at school – or daycare – early the next morning. If this were a world premiere, ticket sales for opening night might not have been so woeful, down in the wincing 25-30 percent range. Not so. While the current Cinderella is in its fullest bloom choreographically and scenically, with an eye-popping parade of costume splendor, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s setting for the Serge Prokofiev score has been presented three times previously in 2001, 2003, and 2006. The 2010 edition restores Act 3, taking us post-slipper to the wedding.

Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, which perennially battles against the misconception that none of their offerings are for adults (that’s why Charlotte is in their name), also has the lordly luxury of their own home. Yet they put just one Thursday evening date on this season’s 104-performance schedule. That bold risk was taken last October during the fifth week of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

I’ve already heard from an official source that last Thursday’s sales have been noted, that future Thursday performances are redlined for discussion, and that overall Cinderella sales have been strong. They deserve to be. Traci Gilchrest has honed her performance in the title role to ideal grace without losing any of her maidenly modesty or joy. Diamond’s confederates, Mary-Ellen Beaudreau and Alessandra Ball as the stepsisters, are slapstick delights. And Knight Theater houses the show handsomely, bringing us closer to the sounds and sights and delivering them beautifully.

Wilkes is a dream as the fairy godmother, and she’ll be closing the run this Sunday afternoon with Gilchrest as her godchild. But if you’ve wearied of Gilchrest as Cindy – or would rather see a fresh face in the role – there’s an ideal alternative this Saturday night as Ball takes her turn dazzling Prince David Ingram. Gilchrest and Wilkes, meanwhile, will be slumming as the Stepsisters. My full review is at Classical Voice of North Carolina.

Hopefully, future Thursday evenings at Knight Theater will prove to be a salvageable concept for NCDT’s purely adult fare. We’ll see soon enough, when the company at last stages George Balanchine’s Apollo, along with a Dwight Rhoden world premiere, May 13-15.

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