"Cinderella": If the Show Fits

Kaitlyn Mayse, Sarah Smith, Natalie Girard & Joanna Johnson in "Cinderella"
(photo: Carol Rosegg)

Way back in the Neanderthal era (that would be 1957), an established theatrical duo by the names of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II decided to go where others feared to tread, by writing a completely original new musical directly for television. With music by Rodgers and Book and Lyrics by Hammerstein, it was an immediate and unqualified success, though it remains their sole attempt at composing and writing for the medium. It had proven to be a popular story since the written French fairy tale by Perrault and the beloved animated Disney film, so it shouldn't have been a huge surprise (“You Can Do It, Cinderelly”). The 1957 televised version starred Julie Andrews; the 1965 iteration, Lesley Ann Warren; the 1997 production, Brandy Norwood; and the 2013 Broadway presentation, Laura Osnes. The only Broadway version (now at Boston's Colonial Theatre) ran for 770 performances, with nine Tony nominations, winning one for costumes (by William Ivey Long).

Lukas James Miller in "Cinderella"
(photo: Carol Rosegg)

This updated take on the traditional story, with Cinderella urging social reforms for the poor, is at its strongest when its visual elements take center stage, especially Long's creative half dozen or so miraculous costume transformations literally right before your eyes. It's at its weakest when the new book by Douglas Carter Beane (with Additional Lyrics by Beane and David Chase) reveals a sting of anachronistic lame jokes. Enough of the original story is intact, as Ella (Kaitlyn Mayse, in a winning turn with just the right touches), called “Cinderella” by her stepmother Madame (Sarah Smith) and stepsisters Gabrielle (Natalie Girard) and Charlotte (Joanna Johnson), longs for a better life. Prince Topher (Lukas James Miller) has lost both of his parents (and thus also their musical numbers) and is advised by Lord Chancellor Sebastian (Christopher Swan). Topher meets Ella on his way to the palace and she gives him water. She speaks with her friends the revolutionary Jean-Michel (Nic Casaula) and Marie (Zina Ellis, the best singer in the show), a poor woman who lives on scraps who turns out to be a fairy godmother; who knew? Meanwhile, Sebastian and his henchman Lord Pinkleton (Carlos Morales) convince Topher to host a royal ball for him to choose a wife. The balance of the plot will be familiar, except for Ella's opening Topher's eyes to all the injustices in his kingdom, just before she flees the ball. There is a subplot involving a romance between Charlotte and Jean-Michel, and a subsequent banquet that Ella again flees before midnight (but this time pointedly leaving her shoe behind intentionally). You pretty much know the rest. Along the way, there are four added songs from the R & H trunk (two, “Now Is the Time” and “Loneliness of Evening” were dropped from South Pacific; one, “Me, Who Am I?”, dropped from Me and Juliet; and one, “There's Music In You” is heard briefly in the film Main Street to Broadway). From the original, the standouts continue to be “Impossible”/Possible”, “In My Own Little Corner”, “Ten Minutes Ago”, and perhaps especially “Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?”.

Lukas James Miller, Kaitlyn Mayse & Cast in "Cinderella"
(photo: Carol Rosegg)

This national tour was Directed by Gina Rattan, with Choreography by Lee Wilkins, Lighting Design by Kenneth Posner, and those (deservedly) Tony-winning Costumes by Long. Despite misgivings about the new-and-not-improved book, this is a stunningly beautiful production. After all, impossible things are happening every day.... until December 30th, that is.

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