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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 27, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 09
Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA: Absolutely Enchanting
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA: Absolutely Enchanting

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN'S
CINDERELLA
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
Through March 1


Cinderella is perhaps one of the most beloved stories of all times. When you combine the classic tale with one of the greatest musical theater collaborations of all time, you get Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Although different from the 'Mouse-ified' version, it is filled with well-known songs and a beautiful story. The newly revised edition even adds some 'Girl Power' reinforcements to the tale to make this updated version timeless.

No matter which version you are familiar with the storyline varies with little difference. A young girl is left without a mother, and her father remarries a horrible woman with two children of her own. Ella is forced to become a servant in the household but secretly wishes to find a life of happiness. When a Ball is declared to find an eligible match for the Prince, all the women in the Kingdom are invited. Cinderella plans on attending but her wicked stepmother and sisters dash her intentions to pieces. A Fairy Godmother appears and grants Cinderella her wish of attending the ball. But there is a catch. She must return home before the stroke of Midnight.

At least that is the version we were all brought up on. With a newly updated script by Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, The Nance) this is a Cinderella for the 21st Century. Gone are the stereotypes of having a prince rescue the scouring maid. Instead, the Fairy Godmother blesses Cinderella because she shows extraordinary kindness; that even though she has nothing Cinderella is still generous to those less fortunate than herself. One stepsister (Gabrielle) is not evil as she shows sympathy for Cinderella's plight. A new character is introduced: Jean-Michael, a revolutionist speaking for the people's rights against the tyranny of the man taking advantage of the Prince's naiveté. It is not the glass slipper that allows the Prince to find her. In fact at the end of the Ball, Cinderella makes a dash back to retrieve and escape with the slipper that has fallen off her foot. It is the lesson of being tolerant and kind to people instead of 'ridicule' and mockery. These are the traits that make Cinderella special to the Prince, giving a more apropos explanation for their mutual attraction to each other than just fitting the work of a glass-fitting cobbler.

The cast of Cinderella is nothing but delightful. There's not a single person that doesn't deliver a sweep of magic adding to the enchantment of this show. Paige Faure (Ella) is wonderful as the young girl who is more inexperienced than naive. Her voice is clear and pure letting her ingenue behavior shine. The audience easily settles into the character's sweetness by the time she sings, early on in the show, the classic song, 'In My Own Little Corner.' Andy Jones (Topher) is a great balance to Ms. Faure's demure personna. His voice is strong but through careful delivery shows us the youthful hesitations when it comes to taking charge of one's own life. Staying away from cliché actions and poses, Mr. Jones does a great job making young princesses (to be) swoon.

Cinderella's family consists of her stepmother Madame (Beth Glover), and her two stepsisters, Gabrielle (Kaitlyn Davidson) and Charlotte (Aymee Garcia). Ms. Davidson's character starts off being part of Ella's tormentors, but through her own (newly written) storyline finds her own independence and bonds a better relationship with the younger girl. Ms. Glover's evil maternal figure is less wicked as previously represented. Her negative traits show through but not in any way that will scare smaller children. It is the role that Ms. Garcia plays that brings comedy to the scenes. Her larger-than-life persona of selfishness is hysterical to watch. When she sings (now leading a group of the Prince's dumped damsels) 'Stepsister's Lament,' her comic timing easily makes her stand out and shine bright.

It is Ms. Kecia Lewis' portrayal of Marie (the Fairy Godmother) that easily becomes the stand out performance. From her first appearance as a gibberish-muttering hag to the (magical) transformation into Fairy Godmother, Ms. Lewis does a job above and beyond. Her voice is strong and sweeps around the theater as easily as her motherly appearance works its magic on stage. Making it clear that she is everyone's fairy godmother (and blesses Ella because of her kindness), Ms. Lewis creates a wonderfully positive role model for kids of all ages.

It is more than just the actors on stage that makes this production of Cinderella more enchanting than before, although that is reason enough. The ensemble cast members are all excellent, and although they deserve it very much, they remain too numerous to single out. The set design (Anna Louizos) is beautiful, greeting the audience with a cottage set in a plush forest. The costumes (William Ivey Long) are colorful and beautiful. Cinderella's transformation from rags to ball gown is done so well, children (all ages) around the audience gasped and applauded.

This production was re-written for the 2013 Broadway Season where it was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning four. Even if you have seen Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella before (and there have been numerous television broadcasts and professional productions), you haven't seen this version and this production is not to be missed! See it before it (and you) turns into a pumpkin!

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote Cinderella as an original, written-for-television musical. CBS aired the show in 1955 starring Julie Andrews (who was then starring on Broadway in My Fair Lady). Staying as true as they could to the French version, Cendrillon, ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre (Cinderella, or The Small Slipper of Glass) by Charles Perrault, the show also starred Howard Lindsey, Edith Adams and Alice Ghostly.

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