Forget the girl with the glass slipper. It was her Fairy Godmother who proved the big news in the second local performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet "Cinderella," Wednesday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
Familiar to local audiences as the much-abused adult Clara in the PNB's 1986 "Nutcracker: The Motion Picture," Patricia Barker is still a great beauty, but her dancing would be distinctive for its lyrical refinement, keen musicality and sense of inner calm even if she looked like one of the ugly stepsisters.
Portraying the Godmother and two related roles--the Memory Mother and the Good Fairy (miscredited in the program)--Barker defined ballerina virtues with every entrance and managed to get through some appallingly unmusical Act 2 solo choreography on sheer star presence. She was scheduled to move to the title role of the ballet on Thursday, the final PNB "Cinderella" in Costa Mesa.
The other principals Wednesday matched Barker's technical excellence but without her remarkable authority or eloquence-in-stillness. In the title role Linnette Hitchin obviously enjoyed executing fast, intricate step-combinations but scarcely sketched the emotional extremes of the character or made any individual moment individual. Manard Stewart offered a warm, elegant Prince, slightly cautious in bravura challenges, but a capable partner.
Vladislav Bourakov danced the Jester with rough flamboyance but Li Heng Da (also misidentified in the program) looked very stylish indeed as the virtuosic Evil Sprite. Kevin Kaiser doddered amiably as Cinderella's father, while Kristen Brackman and Amy Rose tussled tirelessly as the pesky/pushy stepsisters.
Other major participants in the performance were previously reviewed--including the conductor, Stewart Kershaw.