Review Roundup: CINDERELLA at The MUNY; What Did The Critics Think?

Review Roundup: CINDERELLA at The MUNY; What Did The Critics Think?

Cinderella is now open at the MUNY. A magical evening awaits, but we mustn't be late! This Rodgers and Hammerstein treasure began as one of the most-watched television programs in history and was finally produced on Broadway in 2013, receiving nine Tony Award nominations. With winsome charm and irresistible fantasy, the score features shoe-in favorites, including "In My Own Little Corner," "The Prince is Giving a Ball" and "Ten Minutes Ago." "It's Possible" this timeless tale will have your heart soaring and prove, once and for all, dreams really can come true.

This magical cast features Mikaela Bennett (Ella), Jason Gotay (Prince Topher) Ashley Brown (Marie), Alison Fraser (Madame), John Scherer (Sebastian), Stephanie Gibson (Gabrielle), Jen Cody (Charlotte), Chad Burris (Jean-Michel) and Victor Ryan Robertson (Lord Pinkleton). A spellbinding ensemble completes this cast, including Akilah Ayanna, Jack Brewer, Jordan De Leon, Emma Gassett, Samantha Gershman, Jeff Gorti, Katie Griffith, Juan Guillen, Julie Hanson, Michael Hartung, Joshua K.A. Johnson, Kamal Lado, Amanda LaMotte, Commodore C. Primous III, Payton Evelyn Pritchett, Mikayla Renfrow, Cooper Stanton and April Strelinger. The company is also joined by the Muny Kid and Teen youth ensemble.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

RJ Carter, Critical Blast: Despite the story not quite striking a chord with the audience, the performances from the players were unparalleled. Mikaela Bennett plays Ella with full-throated energy, delivering "In My Own Little Corner" with a sound on par with Laura Osnes, who was nominated for a Tony for the same role. Stephanie Gibson plays sympathetic stepsister Gabrielle, who is her mother's intended for the Prince, but who harbors a flame for the political protestor Jean-Michel (Chad Burris). The pair are comic relief, with Gibson seemingly drawing upon her inner Laurie Metcalf by way of Carol Burnett. And as long as I'm noting the standout performances, I would be remiss if I did not mention Victor Ryan Robertson, who plays Lord Pinkleton, the royal crier who announces the ball with a rousing operatic tenor.

Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge, music director Greg Anthony Rassen and choreographer Josh Walden are in perfect sync, particularly on the show-stopping "The Prince is Giving a Ball." The enchanting score also includes such gems as "In My Own Little Corner" and "Ten Minutes Ago." Bennett portrays Cinderella as an endearing blend of charm and spunk, and Gotay approaches his role with princely aplomb. Although production values are mostly first-rate and benefit from the Muny's renovation, an animated giant and dragon could use a little work.

Mark Bretz, Ladue News: There are plenty of bells and whistles to enhance this version, including Nathan W. Scheuer's playful video design which features giants and dragons and griffins, oh, my, as well as multi-hued enhancement of the dazzling, violet-based set designed by Paige Hathaway. It's all handsomely illuminated under Rob Denton's imaginative lighting design. Costumes designed by Robin L. McGee range from the lavish gown adorning Cinderella to the humorously garish garb of Madame, which can bring a shock to the system, all enhanced by the whimsical wig design of Kaitlyn A. Adams. The puppet design and creation by Puppet Kitchen International, Inc. and Eric Wright is most especially enchanting as the foxes, raccoons and horses sent to guide Cinderella in her pumpkin carriage.

Tanya Seale, BroadwayWorld: Unfortunately, the staging is also a bit disjointed. The scenic design combines contemporary animated projections of video-game-like ogres, dragons, and other mythical creatures with a vintage painted backdrop of twisted woods and a majestic castle in the distance. The castle's interior rich reds and golds clash with a vivid jewel-toned sitting room at Cinderella's cottage, which I suppose, is the point. But sometimes pieces of many of these opposing worlds are onstage together, and without any recognizable tie-in, it forces them to compete in a way that contributes to the discord. The costumes too, while all are exquisite on their own, are a befuddling mishmash all together, of old-world peasant and sharp-angled haute couture, Cyndi Lauper and Lord Farquaad. Kaitlyn A. Adams' wigs are whimsical, wonderful, and worth a special shout-out though, as some of them appear to have adventurous lives of their own. All of that said, very fortunately, the singing, dancing, and acting are stellar. Bennett makes a strikingly beautiful and modern princess Cinderella, her authenticity palpable and her voice big and glorious, particularly in her rendition of "In My Own Little Corner" and "Ten Minutes Ago." Brown simply sparkles with her beautiful lavender hair and exquisite gown in "Impossible."

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