QPAC Playhouse (Queensland Ballet)


Mao’s last dancer has delivered a sell-out hit in his first production at the Queensland Ballet. New artistic director Li Cunxin presents a joyous exposition of the classic fairytale of Cinderella.

Rachael Walsh gives a beautiful, richly textured performance as Cinderella, highlighting not only her dancing virtuosity but also her acting skills. The step-sisters (Nathan Scicluna and Hao Bin) are beastly to Cinderella in the most bumbling way. Cinderella’s poor beleaguered father (Gareth Belling) does his best to hold his divided family together with moments of touching pathos.

Incidentally, when will someone write a ballet about a loving step-family of which there are so many in modern times?

Cinderella’s kindness to an old woman begging for food is rewarded when she turns into a fairy godmother danced charmingly by Meng Ningning.

Great fun is had as the fairy godmother transforms a pumpkin and four mice into a magnificent coach and horses to take Cinderella to the ball.

It is the epitome of grace to see the Prince (Mathew Lawrence) and Cinderella (Rachael Walsh) dance together. They express the delight and wonder of young love to the rich music of Sergei Prokofiev. No class warfare in this pas de deux, but she still has to disappear by the stroke of midnight in accordance with the iron rules of magic, losing a slipper en route.

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Mogrelia and with concertmaster Warwick Adeney, play with engaging passion. Budget constraints sometimes limit the Queensland Ballet to recorded music but this production with a live orchestra is a real treat.

The step-sisters (Nathan Scicluna and Hao Bin) are particularly amusing in trying to squeeze their ample feet into the dainty slipper brought to their home by the Prince in his search for his missing beloved. As Cinderella sits shyly by the fire, the second slipper falls from her pocket and the Prince is overjoyed to find his heart’s desire.

In a touching scene, Cinderella forgives her stepmother and stepsisters, proving once again that forgiveness and love conquer all.

It seems likely that Li Cunxin will bring a more strictly classical focus to the Queensland Ballet. This may open up exciting opportunities on the Brisbane stage for excellent contemporary dance companies such as Expressions. Other mainstage works to come in the Queensland Ballet 2013 season are Giselle, Elegance and The Nutcracker.

Artistic director: Li Cunxin
Choreographer: Ben Stevenson
Set designer: Thomas Boyd
Costume designer: Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting designer: David Walters
Conductor: Andrew Mogrelia
Music: Sergei Prokofiev with orchestral arrangement by Andrew Mogrelia

Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes with two 20 minute intervals

— Matt Foley
(Performance seen: Thu 11th April 2013)