Palm Beach audiences expecting dancing mice and singing birds are going to be disappointed with “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” That’s Disney, all the way. And, if they’re expecting that 1997 broadcast version starring pop princess Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg and Whitney Houston, well, thankfully, that’s not quite the case, either.
What audiences of the 2013 Tony Award-winning road show production at the Kravis Center can expect is a magical reimagining of the 1950s made-for-TV musical with the original score from the great masters of musical theater, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, backed up with a wickedly funny new book by Douglas Carter Beane (“The Little Dog Laughed,” “Sister Act”).
Beane’s version retains all the key elements of the timeless fairly tale: Cinderella and the prince, the evil stepmother and stepsisters, the fairy godmother, and, of course, the glass slippers and pumpkin coach, transformed by a spell that lapses at midnight.
But, in his update, Cinderella becomes “Ella” and Prince Christopher, “Topher.” There is plenty of “girl power” to appeal to the hundreds of youngsters wearing princess crowns in the audience (the production recently closed a run at Miami’s Arsht Center), and thinly veiled references to the Occupy movement and current political discourse about income inequality.
Oh, and there’s even a giant mantis that is vanquished by Prince Topher and fluffy fox and raccoon puppets, both treated humanely throughout the production.
Beane’s book is witty and appealed to audiences of all ages, with just a touch of snarkiness for teens and adults, and all the elements to engross the children for two-and-a-half hours.
Paige Faure (Ella) is a natural as the orphan who teaches Prince Topher’s court respect and optimism. Her voiced sparkled more brightly than her glass slippers, especially in “In My Own Little Corner.” Likewise, Andy Jones is perfectly cast as a sheltered, naive boy wearing a king’s codpiece. And when the two come together in the iconic ballads, “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” there is pure magic on the stage.
Strong performances are also offered by Kecia Lewis (Marie/Fairy Godmother), Blake Hamilton (the conniving Sebastian) and Ashley Park and Aymee Garcia (stepsisters Gabrielle and Charlotte).
But the real stars of the production are the exquisite—yes, magical—costumes that earned William Ivey Long a Tony Award. With a twist, the crazy beggar Marie transforms into a fierce Fairy Godmother. And, several times, Ella spins from rags into extravagantly embellished ball gowns. Another turn and Long would have undoubtedly turned her into Wonder Woman. From scene to scene, the cast is in turn wonderfully from armor-clad soldiers and jovial townspeople to denizens of the royal court and guests at the opulent ball.
While it would be impossible to spoil the ending, it is safe to say that this updated fairy tale will appeal to audiences of all ages, gay and straight, and send them out of the Kravis Center dreaming about a night with a handsome prince.
“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” comes to the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Tuesday, Nov. 11 – Sunday, Nov. 16. Tickets start at $25. For show times and tickets, go to Kravis.org.