New York-based Company XIV brings a rather decidedly decadent edge to Cinderella, the anti-Disney version of Charles Perrault’s 1697 fairy tale about an orphaned and abused girl on the cusp of womanhood, seeking her Prince Charming despite severe family dysfunction. Billed as a “Baroque Burlesque Ballet,” this Cinderella boasts bold sexuality, acrobatics, cross-dressing, pole dancing, and a wildly imaginative score, all brought together by company artistic director Austin McCormick. Outfitted in Zane Pihlstrom’s dazzling, body-baring costumes that quote drag ball and S&M style — Pihlstrom also designed the small set, which features a lush curtain topped by a glittering crown, a baroque backdrop, and a fun-house mirror — the twelve dancers put on a dazzling show, with Allison Ulrich as Cinderella, Steven Trumon Gray as the strikingly handsome prince, Marcy Richardson and Brett Umlauf as the dastardly stepsisters, Katrina Cunningham as the heroic Fairy Godmother (who takes nurturing to a new extreme), and Davon Rainey as the devious stepmother, a fearlessly erotic combination of Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Billy Porter in Kinky Boots as conceived by the Marquise de Sade and Louis XIV. The two-hour-plus show, with two intermissions, contains almost no dialogue; instead, details of the plot are revealed by performers Hilly Bodin, Lea Helle, Jakob Karr, Nicholas Katen, Malik Kitchen, and Mark Osmundsen, who walk across the stage with two-sided chalkboards announcing scenes and acts in addition to their other roles. Jeanette Yew’s lighting shows off the heated dancing and eye-opening costumes to great effect.
Highlights include a virtuoso solo by Rainey, a provocative duet between Ulrich and Cunningham, the beautifully choreographed ball scene, and a cage dance by Ulrich, turning the standard fairy-tale musical inside out with more than a touch of strip-club bravado. The score contains eerie versions of such songs as Lorde’s “Royals,” Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die,” Roxy Music’s “Love Is the Drug,” and Nicki Minaj’s “Get on Your Knees,” as well as works by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Irving Berlin. During the two intermissions, the performers display their vast talents in out-of-character burlesque vignettes that are well worth sticking around for. Company XIV has previously staged such compelling, cutting-edge shows as Rococco Rouge and Lover. Muse. Mockingbird. Whore, and in November they’ll be bringing back their popular Nutcracker Rouge, with their rendition of Snow White scheduled for January. We can’t wait to see what this immensely skilled and adventurous company has in store for that.