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BWW Review: CINDERELLA at Straz Center

BWW Review: CINDERELLA at Straz Center

Remember this inspiring song about half way through the first act? "Impossible for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage! Impossible for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage! Impossible things are happening every day!

Yes they are! And here I also thought it was impossible to destroy the Cinderella story we all know and love. But the annihilation is possible in this new book version from Douglas Carter Beane. I simply ask, why did the original book by Oscar Hammerstein II have to be changed?

Beane, adding a cheeky kind of humor to this classic, I suppose, was inspired to give the story a modern facelift. I'm sure he was shooting for a more contemporary feel, however all of his "clever" alterations radically changed the storyline that we all grew up with. Although the first Cinderella starred Julie Andrews, the one I remember and loved was the 1965 televised version starring Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon. It was true to the original storyline. Cinderella was elegant and classy. The Prince was confident and distinguished.

Some of the changes we are expected to accept in this version are Cinderella's evil stepmother and stepsisters are no longer cruel to her. What? Topher, the prince, was silly and hokey and not distinguished or confident. Why? And there were distracting whispers in the audience when after rushing home from the ball at midnight, Cinderella's slipper didn't fall off to be left behind for the prince to find! Now wait just a minute! Instead the prince throws a 'banquet" hoping to meet Cinderella again. On the second go-around she exits the banquet this time at midnight, and again leaves with both shoes intact only to quickly return to the staircase, and in front of the prince, places her shoe on the step. A little girl sitting close by tugged at her mother, "this isn't how it goes!" I know, I thought. I am traumatized too! In all fairness, it did get a big laugh that equaled those of us who hushed our discontent.

Tatyana Lubov gracefully plays the title role and has a lovely voice to carry her character and the songs she performs. Prince "Topher", (short for "Christopher") is played by Louis Griffin who couldn't be heard very well most of the time. I wasn't sure if he was not projecting enough or there were technical issues. He played the fumbling prince well, as the part called for in this production. Sarah Smith was the not-so-evil stepmother called Madame. Joanna Johnson shined the most in the role of the plump and confident stepsister Charlotte. Nicole Zelka played kind stepsister Gabrielle. Vincent B. Davis portrayed the prince's conniving guardian, Lord Pinkleton. Leslie Jackson was introduced at first as Crazy" Marie, a village peasant lady, but was later transformed into Cinderella's fairy godmother. Kudos to costume designer, William Ivey Long, who created the brow-raising dress metamorphosis onstage, right before our eyes.

As a whole this cast did what they were called to do and did it very well. I must point out that this ensemble were hardworking in several roles as townspeople, woodland creatures and the upper echelon at the ball and banquet.

Although I did not like the story change, I did appreciate the updated feel of the show. The sets and costumes were beautiful. I was so happy they retained the wonderful songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Leaving the theatre, I tuned into comments as the audience left the venue. To be honest, the cast received a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd, and that approval was heard amongst the chatter on the way out of the theatre. I was among the minority who felt discontented about the production straying too far from the classic story of Cinderella. I usually love re-imaginings of classics. But I found out I only enjoy them when they don't take away from the original storyline. I really lost it when Cinderella said to the prince, "Is the marriage thing still on the table?".

For more information about the Straz Center for Performing Arts and their upcoming season of shows visit

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From This Author Carolan Trbovich