When I was growing up, my mother filled our lives with the songs and music of composers Rodgers & Hammerstein. She took us to revivals at the local theaters of Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Carousel, The King and I and, naturally, The Sound of Music. My sister performed in several of these shows and I played their music on the piano. Their music, shows and films definitely played an important part of my youth, which I’m always happy to relive. I also relish the opportunity to introduce my own daughter to pieces of my past and their stories are full of nostalgia and memories.
So along came Cinderella on Broadway.
Until now, I didn’t even know that a Broadway version of the show even existed under the helm of Rodgers & Hammerstein. But I knew if this fab pair penned it, I was in for a treat. Put their talent with musical theater’s own “fairy godmother” Douglas Carter Beane and you can’t expect less than wonderful.
Beane took the existing script and gave it a facelift, updating the story to give it more meaning and depth. It’s no longer just a rags to riches story. It’s about how Cinderella can make the Prince a better ruler by teaching him about the less privileged and what he needs to do to improve his Kingdom. It’s about how helping people improves the world. It’s about all the possibilities that life has to offer. It’s about putting others first. There are twists in the plot to drive these themes into the hearts and minds of the audience and I think the writers and composers succeed in their efforts.
When the show started with a life-size dragon that the Prince tries to take down, I worried for a moment about what was going to transpire on stage. It reminded me of the dreadful Spiderman on Broadway. But the story quickly transitioned to a traditional (yet modern) love affair filled with music, a magical set and a slate of interesting characters. The supporting characters have stronger personalities and we are able to better understand the people in their lives. The stepmother and two stepsisters have been revamped to also contribute more to the storyline and their characters provide a welcome change to the overall storyline (one of them is actually nice).
When my daughter and I sat down to watch the show, it was obvious that the set design by Anna Louizos was going to be full and integral to the story with super-large trees covering the stage. My daughter told me they looked real. And the rest of the set was no exception – it was grand, elegant at times and royal. The costumes, created by legendary William Ivey Long, are brilliant and divine. When Cinderella turns into a Princess, her peasant dress is somehow whipped off and changed into a gown for the ball magically and without pause.
The casting choices, made by Broadway veteran Cindy Tolan and Adam Caldwell, are also to be commended. Laura Osnes, known for leading roles in Bonnie and Clyde and the recent revival of South Pacific, is a beautiful singer and has dazzling stage presence. Her facial expressions also match her character’s inner beauty and I could feel Cinderella’s longing for a better world where people no longer have to suffer and live in poverty. Santino Fontana is fabulous as the Prince. He’s funny, likable and I liked watching him fall in love with the exact person that he’s meant to go through life with. Victoria Clark plays both the pauper that Cinderella treats well and her fairy god mother with such ease and command. Her voice is wickedly beautiful and she is the perfect choice to steer the most important part of the play from gloom to fairy tale. I really loved when she sang “Possibility” with Osnes, that song remains etched in my brain.
Cinderella is as much about all the possibilities in life as it is a grand Broadway show. It’s not the best show I’ve ever seen but it’s one that my daughter and I both enjoyed. Plus, at age nine, she was truly able to grasp the fundamental messages being conveyed. With its left-leaning message of hope and possibility, I feel good that she left the theater feeling positive about the world and our future.
You can get tickets to Cinderella here or pick them up in person at 1681 Broadway.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets to the show but all opinions expressed are my own (and my daughter’s).