There is such warmth and charm in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” It incorporates a sweet storyline, with songs that are sappy and sugary, and choreography that is lush and fluid.
The show is making its regional debut through Broadway San Jose, the only Bay Area city on this first national tour, and it really is a doozy. This show feels like a throwback to old Broadway, where costumes are as heavy as the hearts of the characters, and dresses appear and disappear into thin air.
I certainly appreciate the history of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, a powerhouse musical theatre duo that did much to shape and revolutionize musical theatre, incorporating every element of the musical into telling the story. This particular production was unified beautifully by director Mark Brokaw, and choreographed fluidly by Josh Rhodes.
Every element of the production – from the lush scenery to the quick changes that made the audience squeal with delight, is tidy, with much of the world created by the Tony Award winning costumes created by William Ivey Long. Those squeals weren’t even by any kids, but the senior citizens that sat beside me, who probably would have rushed the stage with joy if it hadn’t been for the gargantuan orchestra pit impeding their path.
This kind of sappy appeal to children and adults really makes the show that much more enjoyable. The story is a familiar one, with the lovely yet lonely Cinderella (a most joyous turn by Paige Faure). Cinderella, despite the fact that she deals with her evil stepmother Madame (a sharp and stylized portrayal by Beth Glover), has many wonderful allies. In this version, stepsister Gabrielle is certainly one of those allies, played with sweet certainty by Kaitlyn Davidson, who has a secret of her own. Gabrielle is smitten by the young idealist revolutionary Jean Michel (played with boundless physical humor by David Andino), a Perchikian gentleman who looks to help the citizens stay on their land. That leaves one stepsister Charlotte (a funny and joyous interpretation by Aymee Garcia), who has her own issues, namely her horrifically un-endearing attitude and her penchant for having ridiculously sweltering feet.
Meanwhile, Prince Topher is searching for a princess. The Prince, played handsomely by Andy Huntington Jones, is a man who has had greatness thrust upon him, wearing it with effective awkwardness. He is pressured himself to make a girl his bride, and while his title might get him in the door of those who just want him for his status, Cinderella is different. As long as Cinderella can find love before midnight, she can give the Prince an option of true love, not status. This is all allowed on behalf of her fairy godmother (the belle of the ball herself, played by Kecia Lewis who is as warm as can be).
Whenever something is good for children of all ages, I often think it means that it’s good for children. After all, modern sensibilities and the modern musical theatregoer are used to more bite in their musicals. Today’s shows feature puppets that get down and dirty, takedowns of entire religions, and musicals about mental disorders.
Yet what Cinderella proves is that there is certainly always room for a character and story driven musical, an old classic that continues to age well.
I will never be confused with a hardcore Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, yet I am really a buff for shows that have such a glorious history. And certainly, listening to such magnificent songs and seeing a wonderfully effective performance by the title character is wholly satisfying.
Songs such as “In My Own Little Corner” is a grand, yet simplistic showcase of a common theme in many of these types of fairy tales, a loner girl who lives on an island amongst those who do not know what to make of her. “When You’re Driving Through the Moonlight” is a delightful showcase of beautifully blended voices, loaded with humor. And a personal favorite, “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” is a delicious slice of the Rodgers and Hammerstein magic – melodies dripping with warmth from Rodgers and lyrics that are poetic masterpieces from Hammerstein.
As long as there are those who come to the theatre to be told a story, there will always be shows such as “Cinderella.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
Broadway San Jose presents “Cinderella”
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Tickets range from $25 – $220
The Word: A story driven musical that captures plenty of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s legacy sound.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
Through March 8th
Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
San Jose Center for Performing Arts
255 Almaden Boulevard San Jose, CA 95113
For more information, call (800) 982-ARTS (2787) or visit the official website