Choreographer Bintley recently admitted that he created Cinderella under duress in 2010 to the music of Sergei Prokofiev. He had vowed not to do it unless the stage designs would be by retired John Macfarlane, who created sublime sets and costumes for Birmingham Royal Ballet's world famous Nutcracker. When Macfarlane caught Bintley off guard and agreed to do the designs, it led to a breath-taking vision on stage that quickly became an audience favourite.
This Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) production opens with stark imagery of a beautifully painted stormy sky looming over the tombstone of Cinderella's mother and the menace of her soon to be step-family looming nearby. It's a hint of the grandeur to come.
We move on to find Cinderella years later in her dismal, grey basement, but don't lose heart as this simple set will be a strong contrast with the lavish scenery and costumes to come.
Visually stunning scenes in BRB's Cinderella
In the original, Bintley used the-then BRB principal dancer Elisha Willis as his muse for Cinderella, but as she retired last year, taking on the lead role is the delicate precision of Momoko Hirata.
She has the right waif-like quality for hard-done-by Cinders, who is being bullied by the extremely comical step-sisters Skinny and Dumpy. While this pair's meanness should make them dislikeable, their outrageousness is also charming and a highlight of the production. They are where Bintley put his distinctive stamp on the character-driven dance elements of the show.
When the fairy godmother appears, the magic starts to happen as the grey walls make way for a starry night where mice, frogs and lizards dance and the audience is quickly lured into an enchanted world where a pumpkin can turn into a glistening carriage.
Dancing animals are among the characters in Cinderella
The Second Act opens with the luxury of the Prince's ball where Skinny and Dumpy are making a glorious show of themselves. It obviously takes a lot of talent by Samara Downs and Laura Purkiss (in a fat suit as Dumpy) to create an air of dancing badly while actually carrying off very difficult steps.
But not even their hilarious antics can detract from the stunning makeover of Cinderella into the shimmering beauty that steals the Prince's heart. Impressive Joseph Caley as the Prince has a wonderful chemistry with Hirata and all their pas de deux feel dizzingly romantic.
But time waits for no man (or Cinderella) and the approach of midnight is one of the most distinctively choreographed in ballet. There's a touch of modernity in the imagery as sections of a huge metal clock face slowly fit together and loom over the stage to countdown to the witching hour.
Meanwhile, the ball guests move their arms like hands of a clock and create an emotional tension on stage for the heroine's fate. It's a truly memorable end of the Second Act.
A modern clock is a strong image on stage
It's a short final act to wrap everything up as we return to Cinderella's basement where the Prince comes calling with the discarded glass slipper.
Time for Hirata and Caley to dreamily dance the audience into a romantic frenzy before walking off into a bright new future.
This two and a half hour ballet is much more funny and personality driven than The Nutcracker, while still maintaining a strong emphasis on romance.
Birmingham Royal Ballet's Cinderella is a timeless, magical production that sweeps you away. The show makes you feel as though you have stepped right into the heart a romantic fairytale.
Cinderella By Birmingham Royal Ballet
Prices from £16.See the BRB website for ticket information.