BWW Reviews: Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA - A New Girl of the Cinders

BWW Reviews: Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA - A New Girl of the Cinders

BWW Reviews: Rodgers +Hammerstein's"CINDERELLA" - A NEW GIRL of the CINDERS!

Original Book by Oscar Hammerstein II New Book by Douglas Carter Beane Music by Richard Rodgers Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II Direction by Mark Brokaw Choreography by Josh Rhodes

October 21st, 2014 at 7:30 P.M.

After an extra 15 minute wait, the delayed opening night performance of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's "CINDERELLA", slowly awakened the 2014-2015 Best of Broadway series at the Straz Center's Carol Morsani Hall. Astounding but true, "Cinderella" is the only musical of Rodgers and Hammerstein's that was written for television. It was based on Charles Perrault's tale, of "Cendrillon". Rodger sand Hammerstein wrote their 1957 version of "Cinderella: for CBS television, starring Julie Andrews. A stage version premiered at the London Coliseum in 1958. Other versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella continued to play in US theaters after 1961. In 1965 CBS aired another television version, starring Lesley Ann Warren, that was truer to Charles Perrault's classic tale, but most of the music and story were from the original.

The New York City Opera produced the musical in 1993, 1995 and 2004. In 1997, Walt Disney Productions released a non traditional casting, remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's" Cinderella",which showed the universality of the story. The current touring version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella has many new and contemporary twists and references implemented by re-writer Douglas Carter Beane, with direction by Mark Brokaw and choreography by Josh Rhodes

The classic tale is about hope and this version is also; however there are new character traits developed and questionable storylines to follow. Ella is a gutsy feminist, who when meeting the Prince for the first time, stands up to him and shouts at him,"to open his eyes to the poverty in his kingdom!" I thought this hardly a romantic meeting, and in fact, I found it startling, especially for the time period. And, shockingly, stepsister, Gabrielle becomes a friend to Ella when she confides to her that she is secretly dating Jean-Michel, a poor, revolutionary villager. Why stray so far from the original classic that has stood the test of time? What is this new trend of re-doing and modernizing the classics all about?

Paige Faure took to the stage, with a feisty, robust, interpretation of Ella. It is challenging for an observer to know where the actors choice, versus the directors choice, comes into play in the interpretation of a role. There was no fragility or vulnerability in Ms. Faure's Ella, which made her a less sympathetic and less romantically inclined Ella. Her beautifully trained voice soared in each song, and especially in the classic "In My Own Little Corner"and "Ten Minutes Ago". Handsome Andy Jones, gave an endearing, light-hearted, daunting, portrayal of Prince Tropher. His lyrical singing voice was lovely, although his wavering falsetto was unsupported, leaving the audience unsure if he was going to hit the high notes. The more contemporary character interpretations of Ella and the Prince, along with the detractions from the original storyline, left little room for romantic chemistry in this version. Madame, Ella's stepmother, was played to the hilt by Beth Glover. Ms. Glover commanded her every moment on stage, as the woman we love to hate. As stepsister Gabrielle, frail and vulnerable Ashely Park was outstanding in her role. In the comic role of stepsister Charlotte, Amyee Garcia,brought the house down with laughter.

Blake Hammond gave a solid, sterling performance as Sebastian, Prince Topher's Lord Chancellor and added a great deal of comedy to each scene. The most beautiful, clear and lyrical male voice, belonged to Antoine L. Smith as Lord Pinkleton; a shining addition to the cast. David Andino was superb as Jean-Michel, the young revolutionary in love with Gabrielle. As Marie and the Fairy Godmother, Kecia Lewis stopped the show, with her dynamic stage presence and operatically trained voice.

Director Mark Brokaw's staging was comedic, varied, and interesting. Choreography by Josh Rhodes was plentiful. There were some poorly executed lifts, that made me laugh out loud during the ball scene. Perhaps just opening night jitters. The ensemble had good voices, although it was very challenging to understand any of the lyrics when the group was singing.

The orchestra under the supervision of David Chase and Conductor Jay Alger was excellent. The sound design by Nevin Steinberg was clear and well balanced. The sets by Anna Louizos, Lighting by Kenneth Possner, and costumes by William Ivey Long were first rate, WHY?.however, stepmother, Madame and stepsister, Gabrielle did not change their costume to go to the King's ball, is a forever daunting question, especially when stepsister Charlotte did. HUH? Nor did any of them change their costume later, to go to the King's Banquet...HUH? Even the child sitting next to me, mentioned it to her mother. It was all too obvious. And the only Tony award for this production went to Best Costumes. The costumes were lovely and appropriately lavish, and at times magical (when rags were instantly transformed into a ball gown), but there appeared to be a shortage of costumes for the supporting cast.

If you like classic fairytales with a new, comedic, contemporary twist, Rodgers & Hammerstein's "CINDERELLA" is the show for you, and the entire family!

Run-time: 145 minutes including intermission "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" will play Carol Morsani Hall, October 21st- 26th, 2014 at at the Straz Center, 1010 North W.C. MacInnes Place • Tampa, Florida 33602 Tickets: $56.00 - $95.00 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, or in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online

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