An erotic Cinderella from the artists of Company XIV
By: Patrick Christiano
Company XIV is presenting the world premiere of Cinderella at the Minetta Lane Theater in the West Village, where their remarkable artists have taken up residency for the 2015-2016 Off-Broadway season with three adult shows. The first production, conceived, directed, and choreographed by Austin McCormick, is a provocative re-imagining of Cinderella, the classic children’s fairy tale by Charles Perrault. McCormick calls this "a baroque burlesque ballet." Whatever you call the evening, the result is a dazzling sensual feast, which has become the trademark of Company XIV’s exotic productions entertaining New York audiences with their unique fusion of styles for several years now.
Their name is an acknowledgement to the decadent Court of Louis XIV, and the evening feels like the court has been transplanted to a nightclub where the thrilling performers present a merger of styles that relies heavily on baroque dance, but with added elements of opera, cabaret, circus, and contemporary dance as well. The evening is served with extravagant design elements that have become the hallmark of Company XIV’s productions like Nutcracker Rouge or Rococo Rouge, which are two of their better know and more successful artistic achievements.
Costumes are detailed semi-nude sensations by Zane Pihlstrom, who designed the minimal set as well, which replicates a 19th century pornographic scene with creative lighting by Jeanette Yew and Devin Jewett. They lean heavily on the tantalizing use of spotlights.
With Cinderella, McCormick’s new creation, the director retains many of the same essentials that worked so well in his previous productions, however, McCormick calls this piece "a baroque burlesque ballet," and indeed ballet is the dominant form of dance throughout the evening. The audience is ushered into a smoke filled atmosphere of mirrors and elaborate lights, however Cinderella like Nutcracker Rouge has a story line to follow that unfolds in surprisingly delicious ways. There is practically no dialogue and the piece is performed to eclectic recorded music from all different periods places all over the world.
Title cards are carried by the members of the cast to introduce key scenes and to give the audience added information throughout the evening. Even at the curtain call the title cards are employed to give the names of the performers. If you have never seen a production of Company XIX, Cinderella makes for a good introduction to McCormick’s work since many of his productions do not follow a structured storyline. Covering the well know fairy tale, Cinderella, the evening runs rather long at two and a half hours without creating an emotional investment in the characters. Entertaining? Yes, but after a while, no matter how beautifully performed, the evening becomes tedious. Just how much stunning hedonism can one endure?
There are two circus style acts that are extraordinary. The first one is a solo by the Prince played by Steven Trumon Gray showcasing the amazing grace, and power of both the Prince and Cinderella played by Allison Ulrich. Both are fine dancers, and Gray is in tremendous voice singing Tchaikovsky’s classic "None but the Lonely Heart" while sitting in a bathtub surrounded by decadent followers. The second is terrific gymnastic pole dance marvelously performed by Marcy Richardson, playing one of the Step-Sisters. What is truly outrageous is the fact that she does the entire thing while singing an aria from Gounod’s Faust!
Davon Rainey, as the wicked Step Mother, is tall and muscular yet lean, an arresting cross gender figure in a dominatrix-inspired ensemble. He is a standout in the superlative cast. The other singing Step sister is played by Brett Umlauf, a strong soprano. The two sisters make their entrance singing Irving Berlin’s "Sisters" in German before switching to English. Katrina Cunningham plays the Fairy Godmother, who is called the Fairy and comes off as a lesbian longing for Cinderella. She has a blazing voice and when she sings "Walkin’ After Midnight," her delivery becomes one of the evening’s highlights.
Company XIV will follow CINDERELLA at the Minetta Lane with a revival of their Drama Desk-nominated NUTCRACKER ROUGE and the final show of their season will be the premier of their new show SNOW WHITE.
The cast for Cinderella includes Hilly Bodin, Katrina Cunningham, Lea Helle, Jakob Karr, Nicholas Katen, Malik Kitchen, Mark Osmundsen, Davon Rainey, Marcy Richardson, Steven Trumon Gray, Allison Ulrich and Brett Umlauf.
The design team for Cinderella includes Zane Pihlstrom (Costume & Set Design), Jeanette Yew (Lighting Design), Austin McCormick (Sound Design) and Sarah Cimino (Makeup Design). The production team includes Nataliya Vasilyeva (Production Stage Manager), Michael DiFonzo (General Manager), Mitchell Strong (Company Manager), Audrey Nauman (Wardrobe Supervisor) and John Starmer (Technical Director). Company XIV is sponsored by MAC Cosmetics.
The world premiere of Cinderella is now playing at the Minetta Lane Theatre in the West Village at 18 Minetta Lane, just East of Sixth Avenue through November 15. For tickets call 800-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. For more information visit CompanyXIV.com
Photo Credits: Mark Shelby Perry, Phillip Van Nostrand or Nir Arieli