Once upon a time in a land called TV, there were Two Princes of Musical Theatre who created a television show based on every little girl’s favorite fairy tale.
The year was 1957 and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA appeared on television, starring Julie Andrews. The musical was remade for TV in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren, and again in 1997 with singer Brandy in the title role.
Now, in 2013, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA has been revamped for Broadway and the new musical has been nominated for 9 TONY Awards. The Broadway production CINDERELLA has been updated with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane and direction by Mark Brokaw.
While retaining the main elements of the classic Cinderella story and the legendary songs of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein, the current production adds new elements for fun and updating. In addition to the glass slipper, pumpkin, coach and ball – there are poor peasants, the quest for democracy, a banquet, and costumes extraordinaire.
In an opening scene, we meet Prince Topher (Santino Fontana) – and although he’s great at slaying monsters and dragons, he has let his advisor Sebastian (Peter Bartlett) take over too many of his decisions regarding his kingdom. In fact, it is later Cinderella, here named Ella (Laura Osnes), who offers the Prince advice on how to reconnect with his people.
Stepmom, known as Madame (Harriet Harris), is still a meanie, pushing for her stepdaughters to marry the Prince. But in this version, the stepsisters aren’t ugly or nasty. Charlotte (Ann Harada, who previously charmed audiences in Avenue Q) is more edgy than evil, and Stepsister Gabrielle (Marla Mindelle) even becomes friends with Cinderella. Oh, and this time around, it’s not only Cinderella who gets her prince – but wow, Gabrielle gets her man in the end, too – a lovable revolutionary lad, Jean-Michele (Greg Hildreth).
Ella’s best friends are a Fox and a Raccoon, two furry talking puppets that poke out of trees, and later magically turn into Ella’s footmen, thanks to Fairy Godmother (Victoria Clark), who herself starts out as an old hag, Marie. With a bit of fairy magic, the poor old woman has her tattered rags instantaneously turn into a fairy-godmother-worthy gown, while moments later her supernatural powers have her soaring high above the kingdom as she gloriously sings her advice to Ella.
This newly updated fairytale is a fun spectacle that offers plenty of laughs as well as the delightful legendary music that audiences expect. Some may not like that it now has a bit of a political message. Surely the 4-year-olds in the audience, wearing princess tiaras and sparkly dresses won’t care. But adults shouldn’t either. It’s all for fun and entertainment… and it succeeds marvelously.
There are clever lines, laugh-out-loud jokes, and an outstanding, talented cast, but it’s the splendid Rodgers & Hammerstein songs that have kept Cinderella singing decade after decade. Here, whether it’s a ballad by Laura Osnes as winsome, slightly feminist Ella; a solo by the elegant Victoria Clark as she flies above the set as the Fairy Godmother; or a big dance production number by the ensemble, the musical numbers are all truly special.
Some memorable favorites are “In My Own Little Corner”; “Impossible” and the follow up, “It’s Possible”; “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful”; and “Ten Minutes Ago.”
Another “star” of the new production is surely the magical costumes. William Ivey Long has created dazzling gowns for the ballroom scenes. But by far, the most exciting costumes are Cinderella’s dress as it changes, in the blink of an eye, from rags-to-a-stunning ball gown. And later, it transforms back again, in a quicker-than-you-can-say-Cinderella-goes-to-the-ball magical moment.
It’s a bit of a surprise when, at the end of the ball, Cinderella takes her glass slipper with her – but fear not, it will turn up again in the Prince’s hands so he can try it on all the ladies in the land.
The new Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is a fun and beautiful extravaganza with some magic fairy dust, including staging and costumes that contribute to it being one of the most popular treats on Broadway.
The staging and dancing is all marvelous, but for a musical to shine – it’s the songs that have to soar. And whether it’s 1957, 1965, 1997, or 2013 – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music stands the test of time.
The modern Cinderella on Broadway isn’t just for pretty young Princesses – it’s for the everyday little girl as well as her mom, dad, and the whole family.
Yes, Cinderella has changed a little for 2013, but she’s most definitely worth coming to see and enjoy. It’s still a Happily Ever After story – and for contemporary audiences, 2 ½ hours of sheer delight.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA
1681 Broadway (between 52nd and 53rd Streets)
New York, NY10019
Showtimes: Tuesday @ 7pm, Wednesday @ 2pm & 7:30pm, Thursday @ 7pm, Friday @ 8pm, Saturday @ 2pm & 8pm, Sunday @3pm