Exiting the national touring company’s production of revised Rodgers and Hammerstein’s charming musical, “Cinderella,” a friend chuckled, “This isn’t my mother’s ‘Cinderella’”.
Not mine, either.
The magic is all here in Douglas Carter Beane’s 2013 Tony Award-winning musical revision, skillfully directed by Mark Brokaw. This splendid orchestra insures the original beloved songs resonate beautifully. Anna Louizos’ blended set of towering, moving, forest trees and cottages, contrasted by the sumptuous palace, and Cinderella’s breathtaking, glittering horses and carriages, are punctuated by Kenneth Posner’s lighting and Nevin Steinberg’s sound effects. But the real magic-making star is costume designer William Ivey Long, who converts heroine Cinderella and her fairy godmother from rags to elegance, with a mere, quick turn and flick of a costume flounce.
Cinderella (Broadway’s delightful Paige Faure) isn’t merely a downtrodden, overworked, underappreciated and unloved stepdaughter who’s forced to do all house chores. Like the Cinderella we all cherish, she sits on her little stool, singing, “In My Own Little Corner,” dreaming of doing and seeing more of the world.
She has befriended raggedy Crazy Marie, (talented Liz McCartney), whom everyone taunts or ignores. But Cinderella is ever kind and thoughtful to the bent-over old woman, who magically transforms - in the blink of an eye - into Cinderella’s soaring, mystical, fairy godmother.
What about Madame? Cinderella’s mean stepmother (Beth Glover) isn’t terrifyingly cruel. She’s demanding, but not horrible, occasionally showing a flash of caring, in song, “When You’re Dancing in the Moonlight,” and “A Lovely Night”.
Her two daughters, a.k.a. the ugly stepsisters, aren’t ugly or evil, either. In fact, Gabrielle (Kaitlyn Davidson) is soft-hearted, and in love with activist-revolutionary firebrand Jean-Michel (Will Blum). Her chunky sister, Charlotte, (Aymee Garcia) is the play’s comedian, especially in her solo rant, “Stepsister’s Lament”.
And the prince? He‘s Topher, (remarkably talented Swampscott native, Andy Huntington Jones), short for Christopher, we’re reminded, but not our charming ideal. Leading his troops garbed in medieval armor, yon Topher slays dragons and other fire-eating, smoke-breathing denizens, but he’s an orphan, unsure, singing, “Me, Who am I?” Attending residential all-boys’ schools, he’s unconnected with everyday life, until he meets Cinderella in the forest, and later at the ball.
Like any sharp, modern female, Cinderella sets the prince straight, telling him to walk among and listen to his people, the poor, exploited, downtrodden, who need him. And Topher is buoyed by her words. Taking away the carte blanche power of vice chancellor Sebastian (Blake Hammond) Topher pays increased attention to his citizens.
Is Sebastian a power-hungry, bad person, or overly protective of Topher? Is he plotting to overthrow the young prince?
Yes, the elegant ball takes place in the palace. Cinderella doesn’t leave her sparkling, precious Venetian glass slipper on the steps - yet. On the prince’s second foray to find her, by hosting another buffet, Cinderella’s on the run, again. This time,though, she gives Topher her glass slipper, so he can conduct his search.
The question is, to whom is Beane’s play targeted? How good or bad are the heroes and anti-heroes? Answer - who cares? Children, teens,adults and seniors looking for a happy-go-lucky, happily-ever-after tale of compassion, love, and forgiveness applaud it.
Like Topher‘s song to Cinderella,“Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” I wonder whether theatergoers enjoyed this production because of its contemporary themes of saving the world, spreading love and forgiveness to all, and finding happiness, while championing environmental and societal causes, or because “Cinderella retains its fairytale glow, regardless.
BOX INFO: Two-act Tony Award-winning musical, book by Douglas Carter Beane, music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, appearing with the national touring company through Oct. 11, at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston: Tuesday-Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.;Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2,8 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.; also Oct. 8, at 1 p.m. Tickets start at $44. Call Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787, visit www.BroadwayInBoston.com or the Box Office