BWW Review: Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA is Magical at Broadway San Jose
Broadway San Jose welcomed the touring company of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, which made a short stop at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts bringing with it the magical music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It also brought some social satire and feminist moxie thanks to a fresh new book by Douglas Carter Beane which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical in 2013. In Beane's hands, Cinderella is an empowered young woman whose kindness and agency help the prince wake up to the problems that the peasants of his kingdom are facing. Oh, and yes, they fall in love.
Kaitlyn Mayse is enchanting as the plucky Cinderella who, with the help of Crazy Marie, a.k.a., her fairy-godmother, attends the ball in style. Zina Ellis is wonderful as the homeless-woman-turned-fairy-godmother, her soaring soprano as impressive as her magical costume transformations - William Ivey Long won a Tony Award for his designs - which elicited delighted gasps from the audience. At the ball, the prince (a beguiling Lukas James Miller) finds Cinderella not only beautiful but also very kind.
In his research for the show, Beane discovered that the last line of the French version of Cinderella (there are lots of others) read, "And the moral of the story is beauty is a wonderful thing to find in a woman, but kindness is a much greater gift." His deference to this morality is readily apparent, though, in the role of step-sister Charlotte (the delightful Janna Johnson), we still see the coupling of girth with unattractiveness. Still, the focus on kindness and having the demands of the peasants brought to the attention of the prince through the activism of Cinderella and Jean-Michel (an awkwardly wonderful Nic Casaula) are refreshing and welcome additions. While the show was progressive, the casting lacked diversity. It stood out, in this age of Hamilton and Black Lives Matter, but that just might be the next phase for this magical show.