Theater Review: ‘Cinderella’

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 NEW YORK—As sumptuous and entertaining as it can get, here is a “Cinderella” bound to please every age group.

Originally a splendid 1957 TV special for Julie Andrews, this Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (original book and lyrics) musical has been provided with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, the award-winning author of other musical books: “Lysistrata Jones,” “Sister Act,” and “Xanadu,” as well as numerous plays.

Broadway theater, never at a loss for fine performers, here boasts consistently terrific ones: The Cinderella (called Ella) of Laura Osnes is enchanting. She is very pretty, and not only sings beautifully but also dances.

Her Prince Charming, called Topher (short for Christopher), is unusual casting for such a character. More of a juvenile than a leading man type, Santino Fontana is indeed charming and has a self-effacing quality, which is appealing. He moves well and is most attentive to his newfound love, which makes it all very nice.

Coming onto the scene is what looks to be a ragged beggar, named Marie (Victoria Clark). But she soon metamorphoses into what is obviously Cinderella’s Guardian Angel.

This character, who is soon attired in an exquisite gown (courtesy of designer William Ivey Long, whose costumes for this, his 65th Broadway show, are nothing short of magnificent throughout), sings and flies (via wires), often doing both at once, with an exquisite, rich soprano and a big bundle of charm.

The so-called wicked element of the cast, one of whom represents the Stepmother of the original story, here known as Madame, is consummately played by Harriet Harris. She appears to be not all that wicked nor are her two daughters. They all seem rather benign, in fact.

One daughter, however, is a bit cranky. She is the somewhat plump daughter Charlotte (played to a hilarious hilt by Ann Harada), who refuses to understand why the Prince doesn’t choose her as his beloved. And she simply cannot stuff her foot into the all-important glass slipper.

The other daughter and sister, Gabrielle (a nice performance by Marla Mindelle), is quite sympathetic and befriends Cinderella. A new plot insertion is the character of Jean-Michel (Greg Hildreth), a political activist who seeks to interest Topher in being more decent toward the citizens. Jean-Michel and Gabrielle hit it off and become a couple.

A somewhat gentle villain is Sebastian (Peter Bartlett), on the surface the Lord Protector of the Prince, but one who undermines rather than aids the young hero.

One is treated throughout to the lovely Rodgers and Hammerstein musical numbers, including: “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” “In My Own Little Corner,” “A Lovely Night,” and numerous others. One performer with a standout voice is Phumzile Sojola as Lord Pinkleton, a palace official, whose rich baritone enriches several songs.

Choreographer Josh Rhodes’s dancers glide effortlessly through the palace set (marvelous scenic design by Anna Louizos, including a mysterious, deep green forest).

As mentioned earlier, performances, even to the minor players and chorus, are top rate, disciplined, and exuding energy. I cannot help but mention Mr. Long’s costumes once again, as there are two rapid, almost magical spots where Cinderella’s gowns appear to be changed in about one second! How this is accomplished is a mystery.

With the orchestra conducted by Andy Einhorn, orchestrations by Danny Troob, and music adaptation, supervision, and arrangement by David Chase, the musical element is in great hands.  

This superior production should be in for a long, fruitful run. And don’t forget the goodies on sale in the lobby—there are tiaras for the younger set!

‘Cinderella’
Broadway Theatre
1681 Broadway
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Tickets: 212-239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com
Closes: Dec. 22

Diana Barth publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information: www.diabarth@juno.com.


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