SANDY — Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a classic most are familiar with. Multiple generations have experienced a film version, whether it starred Julie Andrews (1957), Lesley Ann Warren (1965), or Brandy and Whitney Houston (1997). The original book and lyrics were by Oscar Hammerstein II with music by Richard Rodgers. In 2013 the Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella opened, with new book by Douglas Carter Beane, music adaptation and arrangements by David Chase, and orchestrations by Danny Troob. This new adaptation made interesting changes, including a prince with more of a presence, a sassier Fairy Godmother, a kinder stepsister, a revolutionist, and a more purposeful Cinderella. This version is currently playing at the Hale Centre Theatre, directed and choreographed by Dave Tinney.
Cinderella was played by Amy Keeler. One of my favorite scenes with Ella was during her performance of the song, “In My Own Little Corner.” I loved that the majority of this scene took place in the exterior of the home and that the song included a fox and a raccoon puppet interaction. This interaction gave Ella someone to sing to other than herself, and it added some fun for a younger audience. A potent moment during this song was when Ella sang about the lioness in her Lair, motioning toward the front door where her stepmother had just gone through. This gesture did well to establish Ella’s personality and how she felt about Madame (Eden Benson). Keeler was a strong vocalist and performer who did well in this role.
Prince Topher, played by Derek Smith, was a strong male role who still had some endearingly awkward insecurities. The prince had no fear in facing giants or dragons, but girls were another matter. The character’s awkwardness in certain situations made him seem more real and relatable. Smith had an incredible singing voice, and I especially loved his ending notes in the song, “Love Come Home To Me.”
Marie, played by Mack, was a perfect blend of sassy, crazy, and completely lovable. Marie was a fairy godmother that would be fun to have. Her song, “Impossible,“ was definitely a fun highlight the show. Mack’s voice was powerful, and while she could be her own, unique soloist, she could also blend well with the rest of the cast, standing out when needed. Marie was my favorite character on stage.
Madame (Benson) and her two daughters, Gabrielle (Kelly Coombs) and Charlotte (Ali Bennett), were always a riot on stage. I would not want Madame as my mother figure. Benson did splendidly at ridiculing Ella and Charlotte. However, I loved the fun and happy chemistry during the song, “A Lovely Night,” between all four women. That song led into a fun relationship between Ella and Gabrielle that I found delightful. Another fun relationship was between Gabrielle and Jean-Michel (Keith Evans). Gabrielle seemed ditsy and oblivious while Jean-Michel was extremely aware of the corruption in the kingdom. Jean-Michel lacked confidence, where as Gabrielle had no lack of confidence. I loved how they both used their strengths to strengthen each other.
This production was my first experience with the new theater in the round at the Sandy Hill theater. I have heard occasionally of others who feel that the resources and capabilities of this theater or underutilized. This complaint was definitely not the case with their current production of Cinderella. The floral decked sets magically grew up from the ground, rolled in from the wings, and floated down from the ceiling. I was continually amazed by the variety of the locations of scent and how smoothly they came in and out. Often the set was changing while the performers were in the process of performing. During one set change, Cinderella was outside of her home, and she walked through a door, only to have the door, while she was going through it, roll across the stage with her on the platform as the new set formed the interior of the home around her. At first it felt like the set (designed by Kacey Udy) was overly flowery, with the fake flowers everywhere, but as the flowers were carried on throughout all of the set pieces and not just the first set piece, it became more of a design motif than an overabundance in one spot. All of the set pieces were well-crafted and painted, including a variety of marble on the palace floor. The screens around the theatre added to the magic without detracting from it. The tech for this production was incredible. Like the set, the props (design by Michelle Jensen) like the prince’s horse and a dragon buffered the magic of the show.
Costumes were designed by Mary Ann Hill, assisted by Amanda Dobbs. There was a huge variety of formal suits and gowns worn by the lower class of the kingdom. All the gowns were fun and colorful, especially during the ballroom scene. In the ballroom scene, all of the guests were in color while Cinderella wore a white dress. Cinderella‘s dress was the only gown that glittered and sparkled, which nicely brought the attention to her. There were three different magical costume changes that happened, but I won’t go into detail yet so as not to ruin the fun for others.
This production of Cinderella was a pure delight. The show would make for a wonderful father-daughter date, and it is fun for all ages and audiences types. This new adaptation is perfect for Cinderella lovers, and this magical production is the perfect opportunity. The technical aspects alone make for a magical night out.