Ballet of the Dolls' "Cinderella" is a must-see for those who prefer their holiday cheer spiked with a bit of goth. Choreographer Myron Johnson takes inspiration from the cartoonist Charles Addams (of "The Addams Family" fame) to create his own darkly witty take on the familiar story about a good-hearted young woman in bad circumstances who finds a happy ending with glass slippers on her feet.
While it might be difficult at first to imagine the Disney-fied fairy tale cloaked in shadows, once the show gets going it all makes perfect sense; in fact the gloominess only seems to heighten Cinderella's magical transformation from beaten-down servant to belle of the ball. The performers all have the black-ringed eyes familiar to Addams' characters (giving them a look of weary surprise) and their costumes (by Grant Whittaker) are the height of funereal chic. Morticia and Gomez would approve.
Stephanie Fellner infuses the title role with sweetness, longing and dignity. The light touch of her dancing balances a sense of dreaminess against heartache. But the true scene-stealers are the stepmother (Robert Skafte) and stepsisters (Lisa Conlin and Heather Cadigan). They embrace their evil roles with goofy gusto (the kids in the audience loved them). Even their perpetually screwed-up facial expressions reflect an inner ugliness. Conlin dances with her shoulders up at her ears and a stiff body. Her attempts at curtsying are hilarious. Cadigan adopts a turned-out, broad-shouldered, heel-first walk, transforming her into a Tim-Burton-esque Olive Oyl. A wheelchair-bound snarling Skafte uses his knotty hands to slap at everyone.
There are other fun aspects to the production, including attempts by Christine Maginnis as a fright-wigged dance instructor to teach the nasty and decidedly ungraceful family how to move with aplomb (an epic fail, natch), plus Rebecca Abroe's elegant turn as a glam-queen fairy godmother, accompanied by a chorus of industrious figures who do the house-cleaning with quick flicks of their broomsticks. Johnson also conjures up some visually interesting choreographic tricks to portray Cinderella's travels in the pumpkin coach and her race to make it home before midnight.
But if this "Cinderella" still sounds too nice for you, check out "SINderella" the Dolls' alternative -- and far naughtier -- version for adults only. Both shows can be seen throughout this month.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.