If the Shoe Fits

by Judi Christy

Who among us does not know the story of Cinderella? It’s been done 1,000 times, in all forms of literature, cinema and song thus giving face to evil stepmothers and jealous siblings for seemingly, all time.  You probably know it best from Disney (either their animated 1950 release or last year’s Cate Blanchett remake).  So, you may be surprised to learn that the first performance of this dysfunctional family drama (no doubt called something “foreign,”) can be dated back to 9th century China.  Charles Perrault, a Frenchman, was the first to put the folk tale on paper, sometime around 1650, titling his work Cendrillon (Cinderella), and earning him the pre-Grimm reputation as the “real” father of the fairytale.  And, ever since, the work has inspired an exhausting list of dramas, operas, and ballets.

Any why not?  Cinderella is a classic tale:  Poor girl with good heart meets great guy with big palace.  C’mon.  Danielle Steele has been making a mint off this formula forever.  It’s foolproof.  It’s a feel good.  And, if done in the traditional way of the plot-line, it’s funny.

That’s certainly the approach to be taken by the Canton Ballet as they perform “Cinderella” on March 12 and 13, with 2 p.m. matinees each day, at the Canton Palace Theatre.   Spoiler Alert:  The ugly stepsisters are actually guys, which is the way the score was written, stating that the roles could be performed in travesti (do you really need to Google the term?).  So, you are expected to laugh at their unladylike antics and, if you have real good seats, the stubble peeking through their stage make-up.

What you won’t laugh at is the debut performance of the prince.   Cameron Catazaro Hayward, who has been with the Canton Ballet since age 3, will take on the role.  He has big slippers to fill as the last time the ballet was performed (2011), his brother Zachary, danced as the lead.  Both boys, are the very talented and (dare I say it?) beautifully featured sons of Jennifer Catazaro Hayward, a veteran instructor at Canton Ballet, who herself, was a student of Cassandra Crowley, the Ballet’s artistic director.  And, rumor has it, Cameron is certainly primed to follow in his brother’s footsteps on the Canton Palace Theatre stage, as well as those in NYC and beyond.

But not quite yet.

Cameron, along with a cast of dozens, portraying mice, fairies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, a godmother, a stepmother, a father, party attendees, and of course, Cinderella, need to finish out the 50th anniversary season of the Canton Ballet on its historic hometown stage.

And, so they will – in two acts, dancing to the melodious and recognized score of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.  And, true, it’s not what you’re hearing on Pandora, but I’d lay bet that you’ll recall some of Sergei’s symbolism as you listen throughout the performance.

But, listen with your eyes wide open.  There is so much to see in this performance.

As the ballet opens, Cinderella is helping her step-mother and two step-sisters to prepare for the Spring Ball, at which it is rumored that the Prince will choose his bride. Of course, a scuffle ensues and the stepsisters rip the garment that they plan to wear, leaving kind Cinderella to clean up their mess and, in the meantime befriend an old beggar woman by giving her a pair of old slippers to wear and worm her feet.

Are you following this so far?

The sisters find other things to wear, have a clumsy dance lesson, depart for the palace with their snotty stepmother and brow-beaten father in tow, and leave Cinderella alone with a broom that she uses as her pseudo, yet foreshadowing charming, waltzing partner.  In time, the old beggar returns, with a big reveal and a pair of great heels.  She also summons a few critters, a large gourd and a warning to Cinderella to have a great time but be home by curfew … or else.

End of act and time for applause, a trip to the ladies room and more concession stand Goobers.

The rest of the story is the rest of the story.  Let’s just say that karma concurs and good prevails. It’s not that hard to follow, even if you’re new to ballet.

And, because the story is so universal and the costumes, music and setting are so sensational, Cinderella is the perfect performance to attend.  Because regardless of age, gender, race, religion or creed don’t we all just want a happy ending … and a perfect pair of shoes?

Tickets for Cinderella are $21-25 for adults, $21-17 for seniors and $11-13 for children.  There is a discount for groups of 10 or more.   Reserved seat tickets may be purchased on-line at cantonballet.com and in person or by telephone at 330-455-7220 at the ballet office at the Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Ave. N. in Canton.