The new production of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella (* * * 1/2 out of four) that opened Sunday at the Broadway Theatre finds Osnes less surprisingly cast, but just as beguiling. The musical, appearing on the Great White Way for the first time, began its life as a 1957 TV movie starring Julie Andrews -- leaving the current star with a pretty big pair of glass slippers to fill.
RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella including the New York Times and More...
Helmer Mark Brokaw...has cast this show shrewdly, with actors who can sing, get their laughs, and in one crucial case especially, even dance. That triple threat is Osnes...While her light soprano gives sweet voice to Ella, Osnes' acting chops and dancing skills make her as lovely to watch as she is to listen to...The cheeky humor of Beane's book comes from imposing modern sensibilities (and contemporary lingo) on timeless storybook figures....But all these clever alterations radically change the story we all grew with, the tale about how true love rescues a callously mistreated girl from persecution. Because the evil stepmother and stepsisters are no longer cruel or threatening, our fairytale Cinderella is no longer a despised outcast, the unhappy victim of her sad circumstances. For that matter, Ella is no longer even the hero of her own fairytale.
What's this happening in Cinderella's magical kingdom? Is that a challenge to absolute monarchy we hear amid the romance and dancing? My goodness, it is: There's a demand for democracy. Children, there's even a call for economic justice. What kind of fairy tale is this? In the hands of playwright Douglas Carter Beane, a quite fine one actually.... Beane has succeeded, proving he may be Cinderella's real fairy godmother. His script crackles with sweetness and freshness, combining a little "Monty Python's Spamalot" with some "Les Miserables."
Reworked for Broadway from its bones as an original 1957 television musical, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella gets off to a halting start and takes some questionable detours. But this pleasurable confection overcomes its conceptual missteps with old-fashioned stagecraft, enchanting design elements, smooth direction and choreography, and most of all, winning contributions from an ideally cast ensemble...The quintessential element that the production gets resoundingly right is the chemistry between downtrodden Cinderella (Laura Osnes) and her lovestruck Prince (Santino Fontana)...
Beane's book is good-humored and well-tempered, and it stops just short of attempting too much. Why bother with a Chomsky exegesis here? Cinderella may not be an infinitely interpretable text-Beane's always on the razor's edge of ridiculousness-but every age is entitled to its own stock fantasies. Rodgers & Hammerstein's (and Beane's and Brokaw's) Cinderella is as solidly entertaining a commercial proposition as they come, featuring one of Broadway's finest ensembles and what might be its couple of the year: Just a couple of regular folks, the soul-searching blue-blood and the enchanted-orphan, trying to get along, and getting along rather well indeed.
You wish the second act were faster and funnier - but, taken as a whole, "Cinderella" works, providing a solid and congenial framework for Rodgers and Hammerstein's wonderful songs.
To my surprise the Academy Awards came to mind quite often as I watched this glittery patchwork of a show...It wasn't just the parade of big-skirted, Technicolor dresses in the ball sequence that inspired such reflections, or the presence of a fairy godmother (poor Victoria Clark) in a humped, sparkly number that would have sent Joan Rivers into overdrive. No, the main and most affecting parallel is how these two productions were confronting the knotty problem of being both traditional and up to date in a culture that has no tone to call its own.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella--which originated as a light and lovely 1957 TV special--has been fleshed out with theatrics, jokes, a political subplot, puppets, extra songs, and anachronisms. The result is an unwieldy but crowd pleasing concoction that ends up being reasonably entertaining despite its jarring multiple tones.
Luckily, there are some fairy godmothers behind the scenes who redeem this production, including Anna Louizos for her stellar scenic design and William Ivey Long for his gloriously ornate costumes. Long and director Mark Brokaw also stage how-the-heck-did-they-do-that visual tricks that transform Cinderella from rags into red-carpet-ready riches before our eyes. And on stage, several performances sparkle - notably the hilarious Ann Harada (Avenue Q's original Christmas Eve) as dumpy stepsister Charlotte. Of course, none of the young women seated near me were inclined to nit-pick as they rose for a standing ovation at the end. Never underestimate the power of a ball gown and glass slippers. B
The fundamental problem with Douglas Carter Beane's perplexing, wholly unromantic and mostly laugh-free new book for this Broadway "Cinderella" - which turns the heroine into a social reformer like a better-looking Jane Addams, the stepsisters (Marla Mindelle and Ann Harada) into sympathetic, wounded creatures of thwarted desire, and Prince Charming (Santino Fontana) into a myopic dunce who needs his eyes opened to the poverty of his people - is that it denies the audience the pleasure of instant reversals of fortune....Not for the first time, Broadway wants it all ways - the hip and the retro, romance and self-aware sniping, Rodgers and Hammerstein melodies and atonal satirical jabs, a golden title for family audiences and yet something else entirely once their credit cards have been charged.
You can see light beaming from Laura Osnes at the Broadway Theatre, where she's playing the Cinderella of any girl's fantasy....Osnes has doe-eyed charm, a lovely soprano and whatever it is that separates a star from the chorus without trumpeting the fact. And in this first-ever Broadway production of "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella" she shimmers -- even when just about everything around her is flying off the rails.