The musical delightfully portrays a plausible plot that still maintains the majestic feeling of the Disney storyline most viewers are familiar with.
Drawing inspiration from the 1957 made-for-TV movie starring a young Julie Andrews, Douglas Carter Beane has created a slightly altered book for “Cinderella.” Since his parent’s death, Prince Topher (Santino Fontana) has been the puppet to Prime Minister Sebastian (Peter Bartlett) who has taken advantage of the kingdom’s people. Ella (Laura Osnes) has lost her father and now lives with her resentful stepmother, Madame (Harriet Harris) and two “evil” stepsisters, Gabrielle (Marla Mindelle) and Charlotte (Ann Harada).
When it is announced Topher is throwing a ball in hopes to find a wife, every woman in town shows up. As the story goes, Ella is used to rags, slaving for her family and can only dream of attending. In an incredible transformation that will take the audience’s breath away, fairy godmother Marie (Victoria Clark) changes Ella’s rags into a beautiful ball gown fit for a princess.
Osnes’ soprano voice is angelic and perfectly complements the massive orchestra just below the stage. The way Osnes lightly bounces and prances around the stage has a childlike and innocent flare. Luckily, much of the 1957 songbook is preserved and unscathed. “In My Own Little Corner” introduces Ella’s desperation to emerge as something more than a slave in her own home. When Topher meets the young Ella and is instantly smitten, he declares his love for her in the ballad, “Ten Minutes Ago.” Once again we are treated to Fontana’s rich, velvety and full tenor voice in a classic duet, “Do I Love you because you’re beautiful?”
Little girls in the audience will wish they could be immersed in Ella’s fairytale life while the adult crowd will reminisce about childhood fantasies of being swept away by their prince charming.
In this particular revival, we encounter a significant amount of political banter between the hierarchies. Ella receives a heroine position when she has to let Topher know how repressed the kingdom’s people have become. Also, a new twist is added to the mix with a second banquet dance. Ella’s famous Venetian glass slippers go through a few trials and tribulations before they are placed upon her feet one last time. Consequently, all of these factors can possibly reduce the entertainment value for individuals who appreciated the original version of the musical.
Even if viewers aren’t partial to the political dialogue or the glass slipper mishaps, the visual experience one receives is unparalleled. In a matter of seconds, the set transforms from dusk time in the woods with trees and a full moon to a grandiose ballroom. The construction of the horse and carriage Ella takes to the ball and the stunning and illustrious dancing are arguably the finest parts of the production.
Fairy godmother Marie begins the story as a frayed and ragged old woman and turns into a soaring celestial creature on the stage (literally and figuratively.) Clark delivers some of the most beautiful operatic vocals in the entire show. Before one sister finds forbidden love with a powerful revolutionary, Gabrielle and Charlotte provide a colorful, humorous moment when they sing about their woes in “Stepsisters Lament.” The sarcastic quips said by Madame and the sisters present them as actual humane personalities and less like the caricatures Disney portrayed them as.
Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is a revamped version of an adored tale that incorporates politics, spectacular dancing and that classic love story both young and old audience members will instantly (re)fall in love with.