By: Sandi Durell
Don’t compare what you may have seen on television in 1957 (Lesley Ann Warren) and again in 1997 (Brandy and Whitney Houston) to what you will see in this updated Broadway production, with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, deftly directed by the hand of Mark Brokaw. The little girls in the audience wearing tiaras on their heads have no idea about any of this. It doesn’t matter, because to them it’s a Rodgers & Hammerstein fantasy of bubble gum, candy canes, gumdrops, and ice cream. It’s about a Princess and a Prince! Yummy!
Although the opening segment of larger than life trees and a “live tree giant” that the Prince slays is reminiscent of “Into The Woods,” somehow the hand of Anna Louizos, set designer, rises to the magical occasion expected.
It’s also great to have a kids’ friendly musical for the whole family. Poor raggedy Ella gets to be the bella of the ball! The message, in this updated PC production to all the females out there, don’t give up, keep trying and you’ll get what you want! And while you’re at it, care for those less fortunate.
Laura Osnes is the lithe and lovely golden voiced soprano Cinderella who eagerly keeps her positive thinking alive against the daily tauntings from her ill-willed stepmother Madame (Harriet Harris) to eventually find her prince charming, Topher, a strong voiced Santino Fontana, who comes off as a bumbling, timid little prince, brought up by his corrupt protector Sebastian (the droll Peter Bartlett) more interested in protecting the assets of the kingdom and his own than the poor folks from whom he steals. Topher rises to the occasion as he sees the truth, his good nature and sweetness prevailing.
Step-sister Charlotte, a supposedly “ugly” Ann Harada, is more of a metaphor for comical as it is she who is given all the witty, cynical lines as opposed to her do-gooder sister Gabrielle (shy yet coy Marla Mindelle) who bonds with Cinderella as they scheme together to get their guys. Gabrielle is in love with the town revolutionary Jean Michel (an off beat Greg Hildreth).
There are utterly dreamy songs like the lovely “Ten Minutes Ago” duet between Ella and Topher, as they magically sweep their way across the stage; a very amusing “Stepsister’s Lament” and a coming together of Ella, Madame and her stepsisters in “A Lovely Night.”
The other star of this show is the ever-special Victoria Clark, as Marie, the old woman-fairy godmother who flies and turns pumpkins into horse-driven gold carriages complete with footmen who used to be a fox and raccoon! – – Making the “Impossible” “(It’s) Possible.”
But more astonishing is the costume changes cleverly envisioned by William Ivey Long, who turns rags into glorious ball gowns right before your very eyes. Now that’s magic! In fact, he turns everyone into fantasy-laden characters with his flowing and brightly colorful costumes, just as it should be.
Thanks to the generous choreography displayed by Josh Rhodes’ vision, the cast whirls and twirls deliciously.
This is a production reminiscent of the old days of Broadway musicals, filled with romance and energy, where everything and anything goes to make it bigger, better and broader. And so what.
It makes for an enjoyable 2 ½ hours where the girls giggle and scream with delight and even a few adults too!
Photo: Carol Rosegg
“Cinderella” at the Broadway Theatre – Broadway & 53rd Street, NYC for an open run.