Rising stars shine in Pittsburgh Ballet's 'Cinderella'

| Friday, April 19, 2013, 3:27 p.m.

The enchantments of the ballet “Cinderella” with music by Sergei Prokofiev have different accents in different choreographies. This week, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is reviving Septime Webre's staging, last presented in 2009. Webre's strong comedic elements complement the emotional tides of the story, and establishes our sympathy with Cinderella right from the start.

The depth of talent in the company's roster allows it to present four different starring couples during the run of performances. Amanda Cochrane was a joy to behold at the Friday matinee, fulfilling Dance Magazine's determination that she's one of 25 To Watch in 2013.

Cochrane commands the stage with an arresting combination of expressive acting with keenly honed technique. She was graceful beyond gesture, though her lines in the first scene could hardly have been more elegant. That's when she's dressed plainly, sweeping the floor.

The specific angles of her extended arms, the placement of a foot at the end of a phrase, and the tilt of her head toward her prince in the final scene are elements of the vocabulary Cochrane executes with finesse and freshness.

Luca Sbrizzi was memorable as the prince. He also finds ways to make expected gestures feel fresh and magical. His moves supporting Cochrane were perfectly timed to feel spontaneous, matching Cochrane's nicely impetuous touches.

The comedic elements made possible by Webre's casting the stepsisters as male dancers were eagerly embraced by Joseph Parr and Stephen Hadala. They may make Cinderella's life miserable for a while, and her father's life too, but they get their comeuppance in various ways throughout the ballet.

Parr and Hadala were delightfully klutzy and overly physical, truly the opposite of Cinderella. One of the stepsisters can't get off the stage without tripping, while their boldly colorful costumes never fit the environment they're in. This is most strikingly at the ball in Act II, when everyone else is attired in aristocratically soft, tasteful shades of color.

Elysa Hotchkiss was superb as the fairy godmother, sinister at first covered in a black cloak and casting magical spells on the stepsisters. But when she casts off her cloak and is revealed in glittering elegance, she filled out her benevolent role with warmth and confidence.

In the garden transformation scene that closes Act I, Caitlin Peabody, Danielle Downey, Gabrielle Thurlow and JoAnna Schmidt each gave riveting performances as spring, summer, winter and fall fairies who assist Hotchkiss and Cochrane.

Other secondary roles were superbly done, such as Andrew Kaczmarek as the loving but ineffectual father and Yoshiaki Nakano as the irrepressible jester. Olivia Kelly and Molly Wright were spectacular in a controlled way as the Siamese twins.

Prokofiev's score provides emotional focus and continuity, starting with Cinderella's world of dreams and darker reality before the curtain rises. For all the boisterous energy and colorful orchestration, which are engaging from moment to moment, the emotional truth of the music is its real strength.

Charles Barker led the Pittsburgh Ballet Orchestra in another outstanding performance. The ensemble's quality has risen rapidly during his tenure, especially in the characterful string playing. But the solidity and reliability of the brass were impressive too, while the woodwinds were full of personality and pungent timbres.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's production of “Cinderella” will be repeated at 8 p.m. April 19, 2 and 8 p.m. April 20, and 2 p.m. April 21 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. Admission is $25.75 to $100.75. Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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