BWW Review: RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA at Virginia Repertory Theatre Delights All Ages
Virginia Rep's all-ages show for the holiday season is "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella," a gently updated retelling of the fairytale. Originally written for television in 1957, the musical has had several stage and TV productions, and eventually a rewrite by Douglas Carter Beane (author of last season's "Sister Act" at Virginia Rep). The retooled version played Broadway for two years, earning several Tony nominations and a Tony win for costume design.
The show on view at the November Theatre, well directed by Laine Satterfield, is more a high-quality children's piece than a true all-ages spectacle. The stakes are moderate, the emotions don't run too high, and there's nothing scary. But the music is breathtaking, with echoes of "The Sound of Music" in the rearranged score (with some little-known Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers added). Songs like "In My Own Little Corner," "Impossible," "Ten Minutes Ago," "Stepsister's Lament," "A Lovely Night," and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" are treasures, lovingly rendered in this production, with a small, capable orchestra and Anthony Smith's excellent musical direction.
Beane aimed for some mild feminist and social justice updates, adding the character Jean-Michel (well played by Durron Marquis Tyre), an advocate for the oppressed. And the newfangled Cinderella (Quynh-My Luu, who has a beautiful voice and a delightful presence) has some agency, along with a compassionate nature that turns her into an advocate, too.
This sets Cinderella up as significantly more interesting than poor Prince Topher (Edward L. Simon, another wonderful singer), who doesn't have much identity, as evidenced by his opening song, "Me, Who Am I?" He's controlled by the venal Sebastian (Jay O. Millman), who's kept him ignorant about the people he rules. But the happy couple's romance is charming, the choreography by Matthew Couvillon is lovely, and the scenic design by Brian Barker is pretty and versatile. Colorful fairytale lighting by BJ Wilkinson and flawless sound design by Derek Dumais enhance the effect, and Jeanne Nugent's costumes are spectacular, with several magical changes that are highlights of the show.
Most valuable supporting players include Katrinah Carol Lewis as Marie, the harmless madwoman who is revealed to be Cinderella's fairy godmother; Susan Sanford as Madame, the wicked stepmother; and Audra Honaker as Charlotte, the nastier and funnier of the stepsisters. Havy Nguyen plays Gabrielle, the kinder stepsister, fetchingly, and Benjamin Lurye is notable as the clarion-voiced Lord Pinkleton. With a large and lively ensemble, the updated tale proves a sweet and cheerful holiday treat.
"Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella"
At the November Theatre, 114 W. Broad St.
Through January 5
Tickets $36-$63; group rates and rush tickets avaiable, as well as $15 U-Tix for students (day of show only)
Info: va-rep.org or (804) 282-2620
Photo credit: Aaron Sutten