Rogers and Hammerstein’s newest adaptation of Cinderella has left Broadway and is rounding out their National Tour at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa before heading to their final leg in San Francisco. This bigger, grander stage production has become a true heart-felt musical extravaganza!
Those familiar to previous productions including the original 1957 CBS airing are in for a special treat with the magnitude of this stage productions. CINDERELLA takes advantage of a top-notch production with overwhelming costumes, grandiose set design, classic music refined to be at its best, and an incredibly solid cast. However, it’s the whimsical special effects and a strong push for the meaning behind the story that elevates this musical above its predecessors. While riding a little bit on modernized humor yet also on classic Broadway ‘feels’, CINDERELLA can struggle to find its place at times, but ultimately wins over its audience goers with a heart-felt charm that was found lacking in previous adaptations.
Rogers and Hammerstein’s telling is based on a French version that may differ somewhat from what many may know best from Disney’s most infamous adaptation. It’s still essentially the same story with a change in the step-sisters being slightly less evil, just more self-centered, and an added subplot revolving around an outspoken activist against the kingdoms governmental current state. Most importantly, a twist in the key plot point referencing around the glass slipper definitely welcomes a bit of “originality” in a fairytale you may know all too well.
As I hope you already know, Cinderella along with this version of the fable follows the story of a young woman forced into being a personal servant to her evil stepmother known here simply as Madame. While dreaming for a better life Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother comes into play helping her transformation into THE lady of the ball.
CINDERELLA – The Musical peers through the eyes of Prince Topher, yup… Topher, who has been left with the kingdom after his parents death. Blind to much of the foul play taken place behind his back, Prince Topher is challenged to turning the kingdom around with a little help from Cinderella and a few of her friends.
This is where Rogers and Hammerstein’s version, though now different than the original incarnation, is able to add some depth to an otherwise quite bland story. At times perhaps largely political, the undertones can be quite apparent by even including lines about allowing for a free election. While the shows triumphs with large scenic beauty and impressive magical costume changing, there’s a deeper meaning that delivers more of a meaning to an already somewhat shallow base.
While I cannot get into much detail to avoid some plot reveals, the embodiment of girl-power with a theme of you can make the difference opposed to waiting for a magical fairy godmother to arrive and change your life is a creative way to make Cinderella more of a role model for young children.
The show includes a couple of show stoppers from an incredibly intricate and catchy number called “Impossible” that runs into “It’s Possible” to a comical yet energetic “The Prince Is Giving a Ball”. All of this leads to a powerful duet by the Prince and Cinderella, “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful”.
The shows song catalogue isn’t the strongest, but remains well-balanced. The song-style is at times reminiscent to what one may find at a Renaissance Faire with some gems scattered here and there. Instead, CINDERELLA’S strong suit remains the whimsy and detail in its costume and set design. Beautifully choreographed dance numbers, some leaving me a little jealous of their limberness, along with an abundantly saturated palate of costumes creates a show that simply feels classic.
With several long dance numbers and a strong backstory prior to the arrival of the Fairy Godmother, some ‘youngens’ may get a little restless. The theater was filled with adorable princesses all dressed in their best shimmery blue dresses, but was very apparent that some families were hoping for more a kid geared show. While this is definitely a family oriented show and suitable for all ages, your little rambunctious 4-year-olds may find a difficult time staying engaged until the end. Fortunately, with plentiful magical transformations of memorable scenes turned into reality before the audiences eyes, CINDERELLA can snap anyones attention back into the show.
Helping the efforts is the splendid cast. This is a solid performance with a great ensemble all with strong suits. In the title role, Kaitlyn Davison was absolutely charming. Her character is a girl who can hold her own unlike the delicate girl without a backbone portrayed in some movies. Andy Huntington Jones plays the role as Prince Topher with grace and at times a bit dorky, which the character allows. He’s an approachable prince and Jones fits the part nicely. Madame is played by the divine Blair Ross that does it all including the delivery of impeccable comedic timing. The entire cast is special, but far too many to list out.
The stepsisters are as mentioned, different. Gabrielle played by Kimberly Faure is by far the strongest with a bigger role in the story that sparks her very own love interest. Her timing was perfect and probably provided the most laugh-out-loud moments. Charlotte I believe suffered from the fault of the script with some jokes that just fell flat, though nothing I can pin on her. Some may be thrown off with this character being a bit more ethnic than your average pale Charolette that many are accustomed to. There is an opportunity for this character to be the breakout performance, but maybe as written it isn’t quite there yet.
Well, I guess I need to talk about the town activist Jean-Michael, played by David Andino, whose is most reminiscent of the lovable Josh Gad, aka Olaf. A much welcomed addition to an otherwise small cast of characters. The Fairy Godmother, Liz McCartney, cannot go without mentioning. Definitely owns the most powerful vocal moment of the show.
CINDERELLA is without a doubt an enjoyable show that will be liked by most theater goers. However, it may not be the best for the super young ones. It’s a show that doesn’t dumb down its audience either. A mostly light, heart-felt telling that provides many joyous moments. Knowing it’s not your Disney Cinderella could help unrealistic expectations, but ideally one should just go to be amazed by the large production. It’s a deeper story that really hits the point that you have the power to make the difference. CINDERELLA has numerous role models for kids to look up to, but also helps the adults feel like kids again.
Cinderella is now playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa until May 1st. Visit scfta.org for more information!
Segerstrom Center and the company of Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA have partnered with Anika’s Pink Closet for a clothing drive during the run of the show. Be sure to bring your gently used clothes for donation.