BWW Reviews: CINDERELLA Gets the Royal Treatment

BWW Reviews: CINDERELLA Gets the Royal Treatment

Originally written for film and often seen on stage, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella has kept a solid heart over the years, with each adaptation featuring some unique song or casting choice. Now comes the touring production of the recent Broadway hit, visiting Sacramento through May 17.

Adapted orchestrations from Danny Troob and David Chase blend some of the best pieces of previous versions with a few fresh tunes, including some mesmerizing chorus medleys, and make room for extra, stunning choreography. Douglas Carter Beane's new book sets the musical in a fairy tale world where the prince battles both preying mantis monsters and his own questions regarding his purpose and place in life. Cinderella teaches the prince to care about his kingdom, thwarting a subdued, less-than-memorable royal advisor's plans to control the future king. Behind the romance, lesser plots of revolution and democratic reformation tie the characters to modern America. And despite the superfluous (not to mention politically correct) nature of these changes, the reinvented production is surprisingly enchanting. Breathtaking scenic design by Anna Louizos, magnificent lighting design by Kenneth Posner and an overall lovely cast help make the show's quick pace and exaggerated situations "possible."

The one weakness comes in the title character. Carter Beane's script gives audiences an empowered and overly optimistic heroine who shows little wear. When activist Jean Michel tells her the people are losing their lands, there's no sign of Ella's prior knowledge, yet she suddenly takes up the cause, and when opportunity presents itself, repeats what she has heard to Prince Topher. No doubt Laura Osnes worked wonders with this version on Broadway, but recent understudy turned lead Audrey Cardwell never takes a break from melodrama to visit Cinderella's gentle, genuine side.

Audrey dazzles during William Ivey Long's magical costume transformations and wins the young at heart with her passionate expressions, but her energy is exhausting to watch. However, that liveliness likely keeps children's attention. It also serves Audrey well at the castle when like an excited little girl Cinderella counters a game of insults with kindness, and again later in an enjoyable twist on the glass slipper. Still, Audrey's clear diction comes at the cost of overacted and spaced out wording that better fits a feisty Belle than Cinderella. When she changes into her second act golden ball gown, complete with curly locks of brown hair, one can easily imagine Cinderella opening the crucial book she holds and stating, "Show me the Beast." That her best friend goes by the name Crazy Old Marie(ce) does not help. Even Audrey's beautiful singing sounds more Belle than Cinderella.

Crazy Marie, of course, reveals herself as the Fairy Godmother and rewards Cinderella's compassion with a pumpkin carriage. Kecia Lewis delights audiences as a spirited Marie and tongue-in-cheek Godmother. And she flies ... in a gorgeous, draping purple wardrobe. From Cinderella's white gown to the haunting moon in the woods, the aesthetic of the musical leaves audiences speechless for a moment before they rush home to spread the word. The remaining cast exceeds all expectations. Paige Williams relishes the spotlight as Cinderella's diva stepmother, Madame. Kaitlyn Davidson as stepsister Gabrielle develops a wonderful friendship with Cinderella and finds the courage to follow her own dreams. Aymee Garcia entertains thoroughly as the self-centered, but clueless stepsister Charlotte. Antoine L Smith has a few nice moments as town crier Lord Pinkleton. And Andy Huntington Jones soars with a wide singing range as he transforms from adorable prince to confident future king.

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Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA
Broadway Sacramento
Through May 17
www.CALMT.com

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