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A CurtainUp Review
Rodger & Hammerstein's Cinderella

He's angry for all the right reasons. — Ella
Laura Osnes as Cinderella and Santino Fontana as the Prince
If you think a fairytale is far too sweet for your theatrical palate, think again. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's 1957 musical revival as directed by Mark Brokaw, and with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane comes complete with a social consciousness, political satire, and contemporary edge. Yes, it's still a bit hokey. But with the dewy-faced Laura Osnes in the leading role of Ella, it's a Broadway valentine for families.

You know the classic story. Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical adaptation was created as a vehicle for Julie Andrews, who was fresh off her stage run in My Fair Lady. It was aired on television in 1957and garnered Andrews an Emmy Award nomination.

The current iteration retains many of the original songs and recycles others from the Rodgers and Hammerstein's oeuvre, including "Now is the Time" from South Pacific and "I've Lived and Loved" from The Sound of Music. Each song propels the storyline forward and gives an increased layer of human-ness to the characters.

In Act 1 there's Ella's reflective "My Own Little Corner," followed by Lord Pinkleton and townspeople's rousing "The Prince is Giving a Ball." Then Marie and Ella both pull out the stops with the optimistic "It's Possible." While the numbers in Act 1 set the magical mood and atmosphere for this pretty tale in which the impossible is possible, Act 2 brings more emotional realism with songs like "Ladies of the Court" and the haunting "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful." As enjoyable as these ditties are, the real heart-melter is "Ten Minutes Ago," which is first crooned by Ella and Topher at the Ball in Act 1 and later reprised in Act 2. It is a love-at-first-sight song, a real Romeo and Juliet moment imbedded in this modern musical.

Beane's new book grounds the traditional fairytale material and infuses into the plot a politically-tarnished flavor. Happily, you will still recognize the conventional types of the hero prince and princess, wicked stepmother and stepsisters, and fairy godmother even though Beane has embellished the tale with a number of new-fangled characters. There's the villainous prime minister named Sebastian (the always amusing Peter Bartlett), who is the orphaned Prince's mentor. To add a revolutionary element to the story, there's the rebel Jean Michel (Greg Hildreth), who is smitten with Gabrielle (Marla Mindelle).

Beane gives so many fresh twists and turns to the old-fashioned tale that you continually feel like the rug is being pulled out from beneath your feet. "Don't wait for everything to be perfect," Marie (in the guise of Fairy Godmother) advises Ella at a pivotal moment during the evening. Indeed the characters that are capable of positive transformations here are able to deal with less-than-perfect situations, and then make that proverbial leap of faith.

There's no question that the star turn belongs to Laura Osnes. Anybody who saw Osnes portray Bonnie in last season's Bonnie and Clyde won't be surprised by her luminous performance here. In striking contrast to playing "bad girl" Bonnie, however, Osnes here has a fine opportunity to turn on the positive vibes and play the warm-hearted and kind Ella. But Ella is not the only actor who sparkles on stage. Santino Fontana charmingly plays Topher as a lonely young prince in search of a soul-mate. Victoria Clark does double duty as Crazy Marie and the Fairy Godmother. She has to stretch her talent to play disheveled bag lady Marie but literally soars as the Fairy Godmother. When it comes to the Stepsisters, Marla Mindelle plays Gabrielle with gumption and Anna Harada plays Charlotte with faux sophistication. Harada's Charlotte, in fact, is the newest example of a character that hoists with her own petard.

The production glows on Anna Louizos' lush set and with Kenneth Posner's romantic lighting. Although William Ivey Long's costume choices are mostly right in their other -worldliness, he makes a gaffe with the Fairy Godmother's tiara, which looks like giant insect antennae.

Emotions run deeper here than reason, and glass slippers (made of Venetian glass) take on a je-ne-sais-quoi quality and open the door to new possibilities.

The target audience is of course children. But their grown-up keepers and ticket buyers can also enjoy this frolic that ultimately delivers a serious lesson on forgiveness and redemption.

Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics and original book by Oscar Hammerstein II; new book by Douglas Carter Beane
Directed by Mark Brokaw
Choreography by Josh Rhodes
Cast: Laura Osnes (Ella), Santino Fontana (Topher), Peter Bartlett (Sebastian), Ann Harada (Charlotte), Greg Hildreth (Jean-Michel), Marla Mindelle (Gabrielle), Phumzile Sojola (Lord Pinkleton), Harriet Harris (Madame) and Victoria Clark (Marie); also Peter Nelson, Heidi Giberson, Laura Irion, Andy Mills, Cody Williams, Jill Abramovitz.
Music adaptation, supervision and arrangements by David Chase
Orchestrations by Danny Troob
Sets by Anna Louizos
Costumes by William Ivey Long
Lighting by Kenneth Posner
Sound by Nevin Steinberg
Hair and wig design by Paul Huntley
Music director/conductor, Andy Einhorn
Music coordinator, Howard Joines
Production stage manager, Ira Mont
Technical supervision by Hudson Theatrical Associates
Fight director, Thomas Schall
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes with 1 intermission
Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway, at 53rd Street
Douglas From 1/21/13; opening 3/03/13.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan at March 2nd press preview
Musical Numbers
Act One
    Me, Who Am I? / Topher, Sebastian, the Prime Minister, Lord Pinkleton, Knights and Pages
  • In My Own Little Corner / Ella
  • Now Is the Time / Jean-Michel
  • The Prince Is Giving a Ball / Lord Pinkleton, Townspeople, Madame, Charlotte, Gabrielle, Ella and Marie, the Fairy Godmother
  • I Have Loved and I've Learned/ Madame, Charlotte and Gabrielle
  • In My Own Little Corner (Reprise) /Ella and Marie, the Fairy Godmother
  • Impossible / Marie, the Fairy Godmother and Ella
  • It's Possible / Marie, the Fairy Godmother and Ella
  • Gavotte /Sebastian, the Prime Minister, Topher, Lord Pinkleton, Madame, Charlotte, Gabrielle and Lords & Ladies of the Court
  • Ten Minutes Ago/ Topher and Ella
  • Waltz for a Ball / Orchestra
  • Ten Minutes Ago (Reprise) /Topher, Ella and Lords & Ladies of the Court
Act Two
  • Entr'acte / Orchestra
  • Stepsister's Lament / Charlotte and Ladies of the Court
  • The Pursuit / Topher, Lord Pinkleton, Lords of the Court, Pages, Ella, Footman and Driver
  • When You're Driving Through the Moonlight / Ella, Madame, Charlotte and Gabrielle
  • A Lovely Night / Ella, Madame, Charlotte and Gabrielle
  • A Lovely Night (Reprise) /Ella and Gabrielle
  • Lonliness of Evening /Topher and Ella
  • The Prince Is Giving a Ball (Reprise) /Sebastian, the Prime Minister, Lord Pinkleton, Heralds and Madame
  • I Haven't Got a Worry in the World / Gabrielle and Jean-Michel
  • There's Music in You / Marie, the Fairy Godmother
  • Your Majesty: Dance / Court Entertainers
  • Now Is the Time / Ella, Topher, Jean-Michel, Gabrielle, Marie, the Fairy Godmother and Peasants
  • Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful? / Topher, Ella and Peasants
  • Ten Minutes Ago (Reprise) /Topher, Ella and The Company
  • Finale Marie, the Fairy Godmother and The Company
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