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Theatre review: Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella

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Theatre review: Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella

Ashley Shaw (Cinderella) and Andrew Monaghan (Pilot) in Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella

Ashley Shaw (Cinderella) and Andrew Monaghan (Pilot) in Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella

Photos by Johan Persson

Ashley Shaw (Cinderella) and Andrew Monaghan (Pilot) in Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella

Photos by Johan Persson

Photos by Johan Persson

Ashley Shaw (Cinderella) and Andrew Monaghan (Pilot) in Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella

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One of the great things about fairytales is how they transcend time and place. For his Cinderella, choreographer Matthew Bourne transports the ballet’s story to World War II London in the early 1940s, amid its air-raid sirens and dropping bombs.

The prince here is an injured Royal Air Force pilot, and the fairy godmother is a breathtaking male angel, but Cinderella is still the downtrodden girl who finds love with the help of a shoe.

Bourne uses the score for Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s original Cinderella ballet, resetting the story to when Prokofiev actually wrote the piece. Bourne also updates the choreography, as he is known to do, such as in his Swan Lake reimagined with male swans. Cinderella is similarly modern in style and dripping with Bourne’s playful yet poignant spirit.

The cast rotates depending on the date, but on opening night, Ashley Shaw captured Cinderella’s girlish charm with floating arms, and Andrew Monaghan was dashing yet vulnerable as the pilot.

But Liam Mower as the Angel, Cinderella’s fairy god-person, commands the stage with his presence in a white satin suit. Mower’s movements are strong yet fluid, as we see his character orchestrate events and bend time to help Cinderella into the pilot’s arms despite ongoing bombings.

The rest of the talented cast also perform with amazing and continuous energy, as they seamlessly blend classical and modern ballet– including an “evil” stepmother and stepsisters, but also stepbrothers, one of whom has a creepy foot fetish and loves it when Cinderella wears her sparkly shoes– her only possession.

Sets are imaginative, evoking the war-damaged streets of London with dancers in gasmasks, a Café de Paris dance hall– where the formal, invitational “ball” takes place but with military men– and a hospital where forlorn Cinderella and the lovelorn pilot might reunite.

Liam Mower (The Angel) in Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella

To convey such powerful feelings as love, loss and hope through only music and dance is a skill that Bourne commands and this production realizes. It’s not the standard Cinderella story of your childhood– the cinders here are from the death and destruction of war– but Cinderella nonetheless offers a delightfully dreamy, gorgeously grown up, fun and frisky, occasionally devastating yet purely joyful experience.

Cinderella continues at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., LA, through March 10, on all days except Mondays, including matinees. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or visit Centertheatregroup.org.

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Theatre review: Center Theatre Group’s Cinderella