*UPDATED 1/5/2015 – This fantastic and heartwarming show just closed on Broadway, but is now on tour!*
Showing 8 times a week at the Broadway theatre, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is designed for theatre-goers of all ages! With music that gets you humming along, costume changes that leave you puzzled and a stellar cast of brilliant talents, this classic musical exudes charm, elegance, and an overall joyful experience.
I’ll admit that the first time I heard any of the music from this version of the fairy tale princess’ story was from watching the TV movie with Whitney Houston and Brandy. Since Cinderella was always one of my two favorite princesses I gravitated to this version. I found the songs enchanting, the costumes stunning and the message as inspiring as ever – that kindness, decency, love and hope can make even the most impossible of dreams quite possible. In 1997, when I was 20 years old, I watched the movie numerous times – rewinding (yes, this was during the time of VHS tapes) my favorite songs so that I could memorize them and sing them around my house. I even broke out singing “In My Own Little Corner” while cleaning up the tossed pillow section during my shift at the local bedding store I worked at. The store was closed, no one was around and the music just came flooding out.
The current Broadway staging of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA provides us with catchy melodies, a beautiful score and an inspiring message. If you believe in yourself, hold on to your dreams, and fight for them you can overcome even the steepest of mountains. The music creates the mood and moves the story along, but the set design, lighting and costumes add ambiance to an already stunning show. The sets are simplistic, mobile and don’t overpower the action or actors on-stage. They tell us where we are without the necessity of overwhelming us with too much detail. “Cinderella’s” home features wood construction with subdued accents – a reflection of the simple life in which they live. That setting works to contrast the vivid colors that “Madame” and her daughters wear. It hits home to us that while “Cinderella’s” attire blends into the natural tones of the home, her stepmother does all she can to not fit in. The costumes accent the setting with colors that pop, especially when set against the stark white contrast of the palace setting. They shimmer, they sparkle and they morph before our eyes with the flick of a wand! Leaving the audience to “Ooo” and “Ah” then ponder “Wait, how did they do that?”
While the setting reflects the story, and the music creates the mood, the performers put all the pieces together. This marvelously talented cast includes both well-known stage veterans and newcomers alike. Yet, each one holds their own – allowing the individual character a range of emotions and vitality. The hysterical Ann Harada, as “Charlotte”, balances a larger-than-life persona while also giving this self-involved stepsister a layer of depth and conflict. Marla Mindelle embraces the various layers of “Gabrielle’s” personality. We see and understand the young girl’s struggle to honor her mother’s wishes even though her dreams and wants differ significantly.
As “Madame”, the brilliant Harriet Harris keeps the stepmother from becoming too one-dimensional. She adds moments of conflict that you can find believable, despite her characters clearly deplorable treatment of our beloved “Cinderella”. Her comedic timing is impeccable and her talent continues to impress. The exceptional Victoria Clark portrays “Marie”, the main character’s confidante and support system. Her stunningly powerful vocal ability sends chills down your spine while lifting your spirit.
And last, but certainly not least, the show’s power couple – “Cinderella” and her prince. Laura Osnes owns the title character from the moment she graces the stage. She moves across it with ease, reflecting “Ella’s” effortless joy despite the girl’s family situation. She makes you believe, wholeheartedly, that people such as this exist. That kindness, warmth and a zeal for life have the ability to effect everyone they come into contact with; that doesn’t even begin to include Ms. Osnes’ ethereal voice. Beauty, regal and joy – those were the three terms I thought of first as I listened to her sing “In My Own Little Corner”. A phenomenal talent, Laura has rightly received both critical and popular praise for her work in this show. She gives “Ella” heart without making her sickly sweet. You believe that she truly means what she says while yearning for a life that seems out of her reach.
To my delightful surprise, my favorite character was “Topher”. Newcomer, Santino Fontana, takes us on an enjoyable ride as the prince struggles to figure out who he is and what role he truly wants to play in his own life and that of the villagers. He’s got charm, charisma and a voice that melts your heart. Plus, he gives the young prince a playfulness that doesn’t make him appear cocky or dim-witted. He wants to grow. Wants to change. And little by little he comes into his own. This young man is destined to have a long career on Broadway and I am glad he’s been recognized during this award season! Together, Laura and Santino complement one another perfectly! They play off one another’s strengths and they harmonize, not only in music, but in stage presence.
I definitely recommend going to see the current revival of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA at the Broadway Theatre. Whether you’re a five-year-old girl dressed in her favorite princess gown or a thirty-something birthday girl singing along to one of her favorite shows, it’ll provide you with a delightful experience that children of all ages can enjoy!