Birmingham Royal Ballet's Cinderella has swift storytelling, marvellous designs and a tender heart. New last Christmas, it has been a success on tour and on television, and arrives at the London Coliseum looking as bright as ever.
As a choreographer, BRB's director David Bintley tends to get bogged down in undanceable plot points or fiddly steps. Not in Cinderella: his production responds to the sweep of Prokofiev's score, from the harsh quarrelling of the ugly sisters to the hushed rapture of the final scene.
The story opens with a glimpse of Cinderella at her mother's bleak graveside, as Marion Tait's predatory Stepmother moves in on the heroine's father. Then we see a barefoot Cinders in a gaunt kitchen. In John F Macfarlane's superb designs, there's a bleak naturalism to Cinderella's drudgery, from the grey dish-rags to the tiled walls. Then the fire flares up, and we see the fairy godmother sitting there – a properly magical moment. The story's enchantments are seriously staged, from the glittering coach to the vast clock descending on the ballroom scene.
Shoes are important in Bintley's ballet. A barefoot Cinderella cherishes a pair of her mother's dancing slippers, but bravely gives them away to a beggar woman, in fact the godmother in disguise. Later, we see women climbing a mountain of discarded shoes in their efforts to try on Cinderella's slipper. Ambra Vallo is a bright-eyed Cinderella, although her prince, Chi Cao, makes a rather blank hero. He dances cleanly but there were glitches in the partnering.
Prokofiev gives the Ugly Sisters so much music that some Cinderellas are overshadowed. Here, their jokes and their harsh spite never break the flow of the story; they're gleefully danced by Gaylene Cummerfield and the buoyant Carol-Anne Millar. There's a crisp energy to the company's dancing, particularly in the ballroom scenes.
Touring from 19 April ( www.brb.org.uk)