Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella Proves Fairy Tale Dreams Can Come True
Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella has an interesting pedigree. Originally seen as a live television broadcast in 1957, this three-act musical was viewed by the largest audience in history at the time of its première. More than half of America — some 107 million people — tuned in to hear Julie Andrews perform a score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein (featuring some now-classic songs from their canon, including "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful") and to watch a pumpkin and some mice "magically" turn into a horse-drawn carriage.
Much more than a kiddy show, this Cinderella belongs to a musical theater era that favored lush, grownup adaptations of children's fables. It's an excellent example of its genre, one that rises above other, more memorable examples like Mary Poppins (made for the screen in 1964 and too earnest to really appeal to adults) or Once Upon a Mattress (a Broadway smash of 1959 with a score much less memorable than Cinderella's).
Promoted as part of Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre's "Summer of Family Fun" repertory package, Tim Briggs' stage adaptation of Cinderella provides an opportunity for adults to revisit an overlooked high point in musical theater. And thanks to a splendid production and a top-notch cast, it's an opportunity worth taking.
There's nothing subtle about this production, ably directed by M. Seth Reines and choreographed by Dottie Lester-White. Chris Peters' fanciful sets — big, bright, cartoony line drawings torn from a storybook — are upstaged only by John P. White's outrageous costume designs, made from hundreds of yards of bedazzled upholstery fabric in crayon colors, piped in gold cording and covered in sparkly things. His ball gowns are shocking, like giant lampshades rescued from a bordello. Made from watered silks and quilted fabrics and trimmed in thousands of ribbons and mirrored buttons, they look as if a notions counter exploded all over them.
But not even the giant toaster cozy White has her wear in her opening scene can upstage Elizabeth Brooks, whose performance as the queen is the best among a notable bunch. Her nice, clear soprano on "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" (a song added to Cinderella's 1961 stage version) is a high point in a production that's filled with nice moments and more than a few naughty innuendoes (at one point, the Stepmother, in search of a masseuse, announces, "I need a good pounding, your father used to say!").
Robert Legge's prince is suitably princely and, as the wicked Stepmother, Kathi Osborne (who appears to be channeling Tim Curry's performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) is a scene-stealer. Adrienne Griffiths, surrounded by a parade of garishly costumed caricatures, holds her own in the demure title role. I drove for a half-hour to watch her lose her shoe in a big, beautiful fairy tale, and was never once sorry that I had.
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