As you are ushered to your seats you will already be oohing and aahing over the forest stage set. And when the show begins, you are a child again. Just let me see fairy godmothers flying through the air and I'm flying, too. The right-before-your-eyes instantaneous change of wardrobe from the ash-bedaubed, raggedy step-daughter and step-sister to the breathtaking future princess makes you believe in magic.
When Cinderella (Laura Osnes of Bonnie & Clyde, South Pacific and Anything Goes) who is everyone's idea of a princess and Prince Topher (Santino Fontana of Sons of the Prophet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Billy Elliot, Sunday in the Park with George) sang Rogers and Hammersteins's "Do I love You Because You're Beautiful? I was transported back to my mother at the kitchen sink, warbling "Or are you beautiful because I love you?" Oh, the happiness Rogers and Hammerstein gave her! She never got to a Broadway show, but there was always the radio and this version of Cinderella was based on a 1957 made-for-TV version that perhaps my mother did get to see. I hope so!
Grimm is more snarky than grim in the new book for the show written by written by Douglas Carter Beane. Ann Harada (of Avenue Q, 9 to 5, and Smash), the crueler stepsister, was plumped up in a way that reminded me of Chris Christie. Marla Mindelle of South Pacific and Sister Act, was the perfect foil for her -- a mix of silly and kind. The wicked stepmother, Harriet Harris of Thoroughly Modern Millie is so wickedly sarcastic that what can you do but laugh? And the fairy godmother, Victoria Clark (The Light in the Piazza) was as convincing as a madwoman as she was the wish-granting fairy godmother.
How do you make Cinderella politically correct in the post-feminist era? In this version, she always has to be the agency of her own change, racing back to place the glass slipper on the palace steps so that it doesn't end up there by accidently slipping off her foot. And this time she's trying to fill the prince's ear with social justice for his subjects. However, those ideas were promoted by the rebel, Jean-Michel, played by Greg Hildreth of Peter and the Starcatcher and Bloody Andrew Jackson. Isn't that cheating? The social justice theme felt tacked-on and made me wish for a princess who was rescued by her prince. And maybe forgiveness is made too much of here. The Grimm's brother's had the old eye for an eye justice. In their story, the wicked stepmother had one sister cut off her big toe so the slipper would fit, the other her heel. "Once you become queen you won't have to walk anymore," their mother had explained. But perhaps that would be better left for a Tim Burton production and leave this Cinderella just as it is -- an enchantment!
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