By Myra Chanin . . .
The current top notch production ensconced in Boca’s Wick Theater for the holidays is a musical variation of the folktale Cinderella, retold by Charles Perrault, the iconic 17th Century French author who established the literary genre known as the fairytale. To wit, a lowly, besooted (sic) household scullion is rescued from the horrific life forced on her by a Wicked Stepmother with the help of her Fairy Godmother and the love of a tall, dark and handsome prince. Don’t scoff. That scenario was worth $120,000,000+ to Netflix and Penguin Random House for a tell-all autobiography and TV series by and about England’s “spare heir” Prince Harry, now sixth in line for the British throne, and his romance with Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Difficult, and their treatment by the Royal Family—including Elizabeth Regina, the longest reigning English Queen who Brits revere because she, unlike the simpering Sussexes, never complained, never explained and was wise enough to understand that “memories may vary.”
The Wick’s Cinderella, originally produced on Broadway in 2013, has many virtues, including a melody-packed score by Richard Rogers—who may have been the reincarnation of both Johann Strauss and John Phillip Sousa—with memorable down-to-earth lyrics by his longtime partner in rhyme, Oscar Hammerstein III, plus a contemporary libretto by the inimitably wicked Douglas Carter Beane. In this version, Cinderella appears as the subjugated, reviled and scorned daughter of a kind and kind-of-rich deceased father who her wicked stepmother married for his money. The Wick presents our hero as a short, stocky (but not fat), bemused, waiting-to-be-woke, Prince Christopher Rupert Windermere, Vladimir Karl Alexander, Francois Reginald Lancelot, Herman Gregory James, Sportsman and Poet, Slayer of Dragons, Pitiless to Ogres, Destroyer of Griffins and Giants, etc. Topher’s an orphan. His parents were hoodwinked into entrusting both their kingdom and its heir into the care of the villainous Lord Chancellor Sebastian. This blackguard duped Topher into signing legislation relieving citizens of their property, thus encouraging the regional revolutionary, Jean-Michelle, a newly minted character, to organize protests by the newly impoverished.
What can dispel the rising dissatisfaction in the kingdom? Love, Marriage, and a Ball where Prince Topher can select the mate that fate had him created for. The friendly neighborhood madwoman, Crazy Marie, one of the many needly to whom Cinderella has been kind, transforms herself into a lyric soprano and becomes the Fairy Godmother who sends Cinderella off to the Ball with all the accoutrements of royalty.
Cinderella and Topher dance the night away, which gives her time to speak truth to power and inform him that things ain’t great in his kingdom, before the clock strikes midnight. During her departure, Cinderella loses one Venetian glass slipper, but manages to grab it before she boards her pumpkin coach.
OMG! What’s the prince to do, with no slipper to try on hundreds of smelly feet? Money talks. He invites everyone to a banquet. Does he eventually find Cinderella? Did you ever doubt it? It just takes one major outlay more.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein score is melody packed. I recognized the reappearance of three bars from “A Grand Night for Singing” twice, but walked out singing an unfamiliar but memorable tune: “In My Own Little Room.” Douglas Carter’s cynical, stimulating book with a few nasty new characters is slanted toward today’s sophisticated audiences. His Cinderella opens her Prince’s eyes to injustice in his kingdom . . . without texting him any requests for contributions afterwards.
Norb Joerder’s direction of his fourteenth Wick production is flawless. Bobby Peaco’s musical direction and Oren Korenblum’s choreography provide a great ensemble with opportunities to shine. Technical aspects— Sean McClelland’s Scenic Design, Kirk Bookman’s Lighting, Zachariah Rosenbaum’s Sound, Travis Grant’s amazing rags-to-riches Costumes, Rachel Padula-Shufelt’s Wigs, Josieu T. Jean’s Projections and Dance Captain Becky Grace Kalman—deserve five cheers, as do the principal performers.
Mallory Newbrough’s Cinderella was unblemished, and I’m sure her alternate, Daniella Mass, is equally amazing. Elliot Mahon’s Prince Topher was such a sweet dumpling of a prince that my “plus one” wanted to adopt him. Charles Boran’s Sebastian and his cohort Angie Radosh, as the wicked stepmother, were properly smarmy and mean. Cinderella’s stepsisters, Whitney Grace and Britte Steele, became properly contrite. Alexander Blanco’s Jean-Michel was both loving and stirring. And, as always, Aaron Bower (who is a she, lest the spelling of her first name mislead you), soared and overwhelmed, whizzing between her dual roles as Crazy Marie and the Fairy Godmother. And, as always, the ensemble players performed as if each and every one had been given principal roles.
If you don’t know any young’uns to bring with you, not to worry. This Cinderella is so well done that it will be enjoyed by one and all. But, if one of your grandchildren turns up at your door during the holidays, Cinderella would be a perfect alternative to sun, sand and sky.
Cinderella. Through Saturday, Dec. 24 at The Wick in Boca Raton, Florida (www.thewick.org). Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday Matinees at 2 pm. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm. Contact boxoffice@theWick.org, 561-005-2333 for tickets and information.