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CINDERELLA presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Jan. 18. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
Magical CINDERELLA is a mixed bag of tricks.
The tour of the Broadway version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA opened Tuesday at the Aronoff Center for a two-week run. Originally written for television, this heavily-revised Broadway version closed last Sunday (Jan. 3rd) in NYC after an almost two-year run.
One of the strongest aspects of the production is the theater magic. The metamorphosis of the pumpkin into a carriage works extremely well. But it is the multiple costume transformations on-stage that are simply jaw-dropping, sending murmurs of delight throughout the audience.
Strong vocal performances include leads Paige Faure as Cinderella and Kecia Lews as the fairy godmother. The hard-working ensemble are also to be commended for the vocal contributions to the great sound of the production. Aymee Garcia and Ashley Park are fun to watch as Cinderella’s stepsisters.
For me, the new book by Douglas Carter Beane is the weakest aspect of the production. I agree that the original book by Hammerstein was far from flawless, and I understand the desire to update the antiquated story for a new generation of theater goers, but the heavy-handed insertion of social issues and the mimicking of other successful contemporary musicals doesn’t make for a good script.
Elements like the unnecessary and tortuous explanation of Cinderella’s name, and why her gown slippers are made of glass, are just odd.
In the new book, Gabrielle, one of the step-sisters, apologizes for her mother’s ill-treatment of Cinderella, but the motivation for this sudden change of heart, after years of silence, is nowhere to be found. This plot change also turns “Stepsisters Lament,” a great comic number for the two jealous stepsisters into a catty bitchfest by still-mean stepsister Charlotte, and the Ladies of the Court, on the steps of the palace.
With Prince Topher’s parents now being deceased, new character Sebastian, the kingdom’s Lord Chancellor, is responsible for keeping the Prince away at school until he “comes of age,” and is responsible for instigating the policies that have caused the land’s social inequality. Near the end of the show, when Sebastian’s plotting is exposed, not only are there no consequences for what he has done, but he is invited to run for office in the Prince’s newly established elections.
Purposeful comic moments are not really all that funny. Contemporary references, like having Lord Pinkleton (who replaces the Herald) talk about news-cycles and returning in 20 minutes with sports and weather is just eye-rolling-ly bad.
Overall, I found the production to be decent, but not particularly engaging. Enjoyment of this version of CINDERELLA seems to hinge on your personal reaction to the new book. If I have a choice, I prefer the simplicity and charm of the original.
My rating: 3.75 out of 5
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