Weekend Highlights

Published September 25, 2012
Going Places

A Parent’s Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella

by Lynn Schnaiberg
seattle child article photo
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Seth Orza and Maria Chapman with company dancers in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella.

seattle child article photo
Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Laura Gilbreath as the stepmother, and principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Cinderella.
Photos © Angela Sterling.

If you like your ballet with a dose of comedy – alongside the requisite stunning costumes and dancing – Cinderella does not disappoint.

My 9-year-old daughter guffawed when the clown-like evil stepsisters vainly attempt to learn some dancing graces from an elegant dance teacher and fight over which fluffy frock to wear to the ball. More laughs came when the handsome prince’s court jester – an especially acrobatic dancer – deftly blocks the social-climbing sisters from monopolizing the prince’s dance card, including by lifting one’s skirts in jest.

It’s always fun for kids to see other kids on stage. This production uses many young dancers (we especially loved the dancers dressed as what looked to be flies and butterflies who escort Cinderella’s carriage to the ball). They show up as evil sprites and good fairies and dancing pumpkins who serve to warn Cinderella of her midnight deadline.

When the curtain goes up to show the ball, all the dancers are clad in dramatic blood red (my daughter let out a “wow”). The only potentially scary moment for young children is when the mysterious beggar woman (cloaked in black) shows up, but she turns into the lovely fairy godmother in fairly short order. Young children might need some explanation that the dancing that happens behind a filmy scrim shows scenes from Cinderella’s past or her own thoughts.

One of the first things my daughter noticed as we took our seats was the big clock set at 8 o’clock over the stage curtain. “Mom, it’s not the right time,” she whispered. “It’s supposed to be midnight, right?” I got a big elbow to the ribs when, in Act II, the clock moved to the magic hour of midnight. (It’s all in the details.)

We saw loads of girls in the audience, little and not-so-little, sporting sparkly tiaras. In case you forget your princess gear at home, the gift shop has plenty of bling on offer, from glass slipper ornaments to elaborate jeweled masks.  

The show is nearly three hours long, with two intermissions. If your child has a case of the wiggles or is struggling to stay quiet, you can bring them to the lobby and watch on one of the monitors (see PNB’s website for tips on attending ballet with children). You can avoid intermission lines by pre-purchasing snacks (the $5.50 “Cinderella” cupcakes with blue icing and a plastic dancer topper were going fast at our Saturday night show). Each show includes a free pre-performance lecture and a post-performance Q&A with dancers and Artistic Director Peter Boal. Crafts and free dance classes for kids taught by PNB faculty are offered one hour before each matinee performance.

One parking tip: there’s usually a big line-up of cars waiting to exit the Mercer Garage across the street from McCaw Hall. We parked in an uncovered lot on 4th Avenue North, between Roy and Valley Streets ($10 for the evening) and it was a snap to exit (bring cash, there’s no attendant).

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If You Go...

Where: McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle.

When: Thursday, Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 29, 1 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m. Matinees include crafts and dance classes.

Admission: $28 to $173.

Contact: PNB Box Office, 206-441-2424; www.pnb.org/Season/12-13/Cinderella/.

From a Little One’s Perspective:

My 3 ½-year-old daughter is a sucker for anything girly. Frilly dresses, sparkly jewelry, pink, purple, you name it, she loves it. Which is why I knew that Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella would make a perfect mother-daughter outing. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, as the hall for our matinee looked to be overwhelmingly comprised of mother-daughter groups of all ages. The show did not disappoint: the dancers wore gorgeous costumes of soft, glittering pastels (save for the fiery red of the ballroom dancers), and the elegant set was straight out of a fairy tale book.

The story had a few minor departures from the Disney version we find most familiar, and lent itself well to the medium of ballet. I noticed my daughter was most focused watching the physical comedy of the stepsisters, or during dances with loud, dramatic music; she would get antsy during some of the quieter, prolonged solos and duets. Speaking of antsy, I know 3 ½ is a bit on the young side to attend a ballet. Each child is different, and parents know best what their kids can handle.

My daughter had done so well at her last ballet that I thought this would be no sweat. However, we ended up deciding to leave after the second act. We saw plenty of young kids who were doing just fine during the show, but for us it was a case of the wiggles that could not be overcome. Afterward, I asked her what was her favorite part was, and she replied, “The beautiful dancing, the beautiful music, the beautiful clothing – all that.” I couldn’t agree more – I only wish we had been able to keep it together long enough to catch the last act!

-Barb Kittell, calendar editor at Seattle's Child