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The Mom Review: Fairy Tales Come True at Jacob's Pillow

By Rebecca Dravis
iBerkshires Staff
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Cinderella and her Prince are lovely at Jacob's Pillow.

The stepsisters, far right, stole the show at 'Cinderella.'

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of the 2015 edition of The Mom Review, a summer-long series of reviews of family-friendly theater, dance, art exhibits, etc., by iBerkshires Community Editor Rebecca Dravis and her 9 1/2-year-old daughter, Noelle, who hope to give you some ideas for summer family fun.

BECKET, Mass. — One of the most amazing things about the New York Theatre Ballet's production of "Cinderella" was revealed after the show during a post-show question-and-answer session at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival on Thursday evening.

In a response to an audience question about the company's outreach in New York City Schools, founder and artistic director Diana Byer explained that the company had expanded a program that took children living in homeless shelters and introduced them to dance for two weeks to a scholarship program for children with talent and passion for continuing beyond.

And one of those students, she revealed, was the young man, Stephen Melendez, who the audience had just seen dancing the role of The Prince in the lovely and magical performance of "Cinderella." It's a real-life fairy tale befitting the beloved story of an abused servant girl who finds love and happiness with her own Prince Charming.

Boyishly cute Melendez was adorable as the shy and humble prince that more resembled the Disney version of the story than the more recent live action version, in which the prince was a bit cocky. On Thursday, he danced with Elena Zahlmann's Cinderella, bringing the idea of a happy ending to the full house that consisted of a nice co-mingling of young children and older adults.

But as much as you would want the performance to be about Cinderella and her prince, the show was stolen by the two stepsisters, played by Mitchell Kilby and Michael Wells. Yes, you read that right: Two male dancers played the role of the stepsisters, which is a rather brilliant move to convey the awkwardness and homliness the sisters are supposed to portray. It was immediately apparent to the adults in the audience that the sisters were actually boys in dresses, but I had to whisper the "secret" to Noelle, and I did hear another child exclaim "those are boys!" about 10 minutes after the stepsisters appeared on stage.

Kilby and Wells were brilliant as the stepsisters, playing the roles for the laughs they deserved but not venturing too far into ridiculousness. Plus, very impressively, they danced - albeit not classical ballet - on high-heeled dance shoes, which Byer told the audience afterward they just had to get used to like women have to get used to wearing uncomfortable shoes sometimes. Amen to that.

The entire performance lasted one hour, making it the perfect length for children. The costumes were bright and colorful, and because the story is so familiar to both young and old there was no need for any speaking roles to move the story along. The company will perform four more shows at Jacob's Pillow - Friday, June 26, at 8:15 p.m.; Saturday, June 27, at 2:15 and 8:15 p.m.; and Sunday, June 28, at 2:15 p.m. Tickets for adults range from $25-$35 but tickets for kids are just $10 for all performances. Visit jacobspillow.org for all the details. It's worth a visit to see this ballet, which made its world premier at Jacob's Pillow back in 1982 and has been in repertoire ever since.

Now that's the definition of a timeless classic.

Now for Noelle: I liked the costumes because they were really pretty, especially the fairies who danced with the Fairy Godmother. I liked that Cinderella's dress wasn't the big blue gown but instead was a small white dress that sparkled. My favorite part was the ball scene where Cinderella and the Prince were dancing together and the other dancers were on stage, too. I laughed when the king waddled and the sisters were fighting, and the clock made me laugh, too. I was wondering how the sets moved during the show and I got to ask afterward, and she told me the sets were moved by people and it was a good question. It's fun to visit Jacob's Pillow, especially the gift shop!
 

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