BWW Review: Austin McCormick's Company XIV Puts Their Erotic Spin on CINDERELLA
In the nine years since the brilliant and provocative director/choreographer Austin McCormick began recruiting an assemblage of classical dancers, actors, operatic vocalists, circus and burlesque performers into Company XIV, named for the intimate and decadent private performances at France's Louis XIV's court, the troupe has become one of the most inventive and thrilling theatre companies in New York.
They've also been one of the unluckiest, have lost their first long-term home to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and recently losing their plush jewel box Astor Place venue due to the realities of Manhattan real estate.
This season they'll be mounting three productions at the Minetta Lane Theatre, beginning in spectacular fashion with the premiere of CINDERELLA. As is their signature style, this is a highly eroticized telling of Charles Perrault's baroque fairytale, but never one that sinks into smuttiness.
A clever opening sequence has company members introducing the evening by parading a series of silent movie title cards. While there is no spoken dialogue, the production uses a recorded score with live singing, featuring selections ranging from Offenbach and Prokofiev to Irving Berlin and Nicki Minaj.
The first character introduced is Cinderella's stepmother, played with charismatic campiness by Davon Rainey. Scantily dressed to expose his chiseled form, there is no attempt to hide the dancer's gender with his deliciously domineering performance.
Marcy Richardson and Brett Umlauf enter sharing a fantastic dress built for two, as Cinderella's step-siblings use Irving Berlin's "Sisters" as their togetherness anthem. The demure and petite title character, played by Allison Ulrich, displays her subservience by acting as human furniture for the family, but the Fairy Godmother, played by earthy and sensual vocalist Katrina Cunningham, stirs up longings within her and before the young girl is sent to the ball, the two of them indulge in a steamy homoerotic ballet.
Steven Trumon Gray makes for a carefree and cocky prince who happens to be an expert on the lyra, a hanging hoop from which he displays elegance and strength in his acrobatic routine. Eventually Ulrich joins him for a sensual mid-air pas de deux.
The loose plot allows for multiple extended dance sequences, staged by McCormick with healthy doses of playfulness, allure and danger. The most jaw-dropping moment of the evening comes when Richardson pole dances while singing from Charles Gounod's FAUST in a full soprano.
The richly atmospheric design is supplied by Zane Pihlstrom (set/costumes) and the team of Jeanette Yew and Devin Cameron (lights).
It's great to have Company XIV back on their feet again. McCormick and his crew are an essential part of New York's performing arts scene.