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Rodger & Hammerstein's Cinderella
You know the classic story. Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical adaptation was created as a vehicle for Julie Andrews, who was fresh off her stage run in My Fair Lady. It was aired on television in 1957and garnered Andrews an Emmy Award nomination.
The current iteration retains many of the original songs and recycles others from the Rodgers and Hammerstein's oeuvre, including "Now is the Time" from South Pacific and "I've Lived and Loved" from The Sound of Music. Each song propels the storyline forward and gives an increased layer of human-ness to the characters.
In Act 1 there's Ella's reflective "My Own Little Corner," followed by Lord Pinkleton and townspeople's rousing "The Prince is Giving a Ball." Then Marie and Ella both pull out the stops with the optimistic "It's Possible." While the numbers in Act 1 set the magical mood and atmosphere for this pretty tale in which the impossible is possible, Act 2 brings more emotional realism with songs like "Ladies of the Court" and the haunting "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful." As enjoyable as these ditties are, the real heart-melter is "Ten Minutes Ago," which is first crooned by Ella and Topher at the Ball in Act 1 and later reprised in Act 2. It is a love-at-first-sight song, a real Romeo and Juliet moment imbedded in this modern musical.
Beane's new book grounds the traditional fairytale material and infuses into the plot a politically-tarnished flavor. Happily, you will still recognize the conventional types of the hero prince and princess, wicked stepmother and stepsisters, and fairy godmother even though Beane has embellished the tale with a number of new-fangled characters. There's the villainous prime minister named Sebastian (the always amusing Peter Bartlett), who is the orphaned Prince's mentor. To add a revolutionary element to the story, there's the rebel Jean Michel (Greg Hildreth), who is smitten with Gabrielle (Marla Mindelle).
Beane gives so many fresh twists and turns to the old-fashioned tale that you continually feel like the rug is being pulled out from beneath your feet. "Don't wait for everything to be perfect," Marie (in the guise of Fairy Godmother) advises Ella at a pivotal moment during the evening. Indeed the characters that are capable of positive transformations here are able to deal with less-than-perfect situations, and then make that proverbial leap of faith.
There's no question that the star turn belongs to Laura Osnes. Anybody who saw Osnes portray Bonnie in last season's Bonnie and Clyde won't be surprised by her luminous performance here. In striking contrast to playing "bad girl" Bonnie, however, Osnes here has a fine opportunity to turn on the positive vibes and play the warm-hearted and kind Ella. But Ella is not the only actor who sparkles on stage. Santino Fontana charmingly plays Topher as a lonely young prince in search of a soul-mate. Victoria Clark does double duty as Crazy Marie and the Fairy Godmother. She has to stretch her talent to play disheveled bag lady Marie but literally soars as the Fairy Godmother. When it comes to the Stepsisters, Marla Mindelle plays Gabrielle with gumption and Anna Harada plays Charlotte with faux sophistication. Harada's Charlotte, in fact, is the newest example of a character that hoists with her own petard.
The production glows on Anna Louizos' lush set and with Kenneth Posner's romantic lighting. Although William Ivey Long's costume choices are mostly right in their other -worldliness, he makes a gaffe with the Fairy Godmother's tiara, which looks like giant insect antennae.
Emotions run deeper here than reason, and glass slippers (made of Venetian glass) take on a je-ne-sais-quoi quality and open the door to new possibilities.
The target audience is of course children. But their grown-up keepers and ticket buyers can also enjoy this frolic that ultimately delivers a serious lesson on forgiveness and redemption.
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