24 May 2022

The ‘dream team’ behind the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s dazzling 2019 Hansel & Gretel, choreographer Loughlan Prior and composer Claire Cowan, have reunited to create a spectacular new ballet – the Ryman Healthcare Season of Cinderella, opening 3 August.  

The world premiere of the RNZB’s spanking-new Cinderella is the first production the company will perform back on their home stage in the freshly renovated St James Theatre in Wellington. The production will then gleefully skip to Auckland, Napier, Christchurch and Dunedin – the company’s first national tour in over a year. 

Feisty, funny, and fabulous, Cinderella is the brainchild of award-winning master storyteller Prior, with a magical new score by Cowan, and fashion-forward designs by the San Francisco-based Australian designer Emma Kingsbury. 

RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker says, “This thoroughly joyful, new telling of a classic story, created by a trinity of young ballet masterminds, is three years in the making. With Emma’s extraordinary set and costumes, Claire’s magnificent musical score, and Loughlan’s witty and dramatic storytelling, we’ve lovingly created a thoroughly magical modern Cinderella – a sparkly, well-styled twist on the much-loved classic, with a heroine who knows her own mind and a hero who follows his heart.” 

Prior says, “Our Cinderella story centres around a quest for identity, true love and the courage to be yourself. The characters exist in a society of excess, titles and possessions, in which more is more; a direct parallel to the oversaturation of twenty-first century living. Cinderella and Prince Charming must push against the noise in order to re-write their own, authentic ‘happily ever afters’.” 
Prior’s most recent main stage work for the company was 2021’s The Firebird which was described in one review as “brave, innovative and welcome” and another as “a triumph.” An international review of the extraordinary film version of The Firebird read, “Prior’s Firebird has it all; theatre magic, memorable performances.” Prior’s 2019 production of Hansel and Gretel, his first collaboration with Cowan, enchanted audiences around Aotearoa with almost 28,000 people enjoying it in theatres as a pre-Christmas treat, and 150,000 tuning in to watch free broadcasts of the ballet during April and May 2020.  
Claire Cowan is at the forefront of composition in New Zealand. She has worked with the country’s biggest orchestras, including the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the NZSO National Youth Orchestra while she was still a university student. She has received two Silver Scroll nominations and a win for her first TV series soundtrack, Hillary. Hansel & Gretel broke new ground for the RNZB – it was the company’s first-ever full-length commission for a woman composer. 

Emma Kingsbury has designed extensively for film, ballet, television, theatre and opera, in the US, Europe, Australia and the UK. Most recently, that includes Blacklight directed by Mark Williams (Ozark) and starring Liam Neeson, HBO’s Finding Magic Mike, Wooden Dimes for the San Francisco Ballet, The Firebird for Texas Ballet and the award-winning The Crucible for Scottish Ballet. This is her first commission for the RNZB. 

Ryman Healthcare CEO, Richard Umbers, says, ““We’ve been a long-time supporter of the RNZB because many of our residents are long-time supporters as well. It will be great to see the ballet back at home in the St James in Wellington for a new take on this beautiful classic. Even better, they’re taking it on the road, so audiences around the country will get a chance to share the magic.” 

RNZB Executive Director Lester McGrath says, “We are continually grateful for the support of our longtime partner Ryman Healthcare who have been working with us to bring beautiful ballet stories to the stage and screen since 2016. We also offer our sincerest thanks to the many generous funders and partners who have supported our St James Theatre fundraising campaign – helping us raise over $3m. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to our beloved home.” 
RNZB favourites, including Principals Mayu Tanigaito, Laurynas Vėjalis and Kate Kadow, will shine in iconic roles including Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother, alongside a cast of delightful, colourful – and in some cases slightly surprising – characters. Highs, lows, fairy-tale endings, and happy-ever-afters spill from the stage in every shade of the rainbow, with dancing and storytelling that will bring joy to the young and young at heart. 

The Ryman Season of Cinderella will be accompanied by a live orchestra in Wellington (Orchestra Wellington), Auckland (Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra) and Christchurch (Christchurch Symphony Orchestra), conducted by Hamish McKeich.   

The season has a comprehensive Accessibility Programme including an audio described performance for the public in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, with touch tours for blind and low vision audience members; an audio described schools’ performance in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch with thanks to support from Parents of Vision Impaired New Zealand Inc; and a Musical Moves workshop, in collaboration with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, for intermediate and secondary school students to experience and understand the special working relationship between music and dance. While the company is in Tāmaki Makaurau, they will offer a Relaxed Performance of two other works for people with spectrum disorders, sensitivity differences and/or special needs, at Manukau’s Vodafone Events Centre. 

Tickets for all shows are on sale now. 

RNZB_CHARACTER_Cinderella_Chandelier_Final_HR RNZB Principals Mayu Tanigaito and Sara Garbowski, and Soloists Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson and Kirby Selchow in promotional image for Cinderella. Photograph by Ross Brown.