Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
What little girl hasn't, at one time or another, wished she were Cinderella? They dream that with the aid of a fairy godmother, they will meet their prince, fall in love, and live happily ever after. The national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella brings this enchanting fairy tale to a new generation of theatergoers (as evidenced by the plethora of very young ladies in attendance) in a pleasant and charming production currently playing at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati.
This version of the classic tale is mostly traditional, with some updated dialogue and creative casting, and is a feast for the eyes, ears, and inner-child in all of us. The story of the mistreated step-daughter who is transformed into a beautiful lady just in time to go to the royal ball and fall in love with the prince has stood the test of time and is as captivating as ever.
There are some very interesting casting choices in this production. Former pop queen Deborah Gibson stars as the title character. She captures the spirit of the role surprisingly well, and is appropriately hopeful, genuine, energetic, and curious as Cinderella. Her large number of musical theater performances in the last decade has made her into a credible actress. Ms. Gibson still sings well, but is unfortunately hampered by a noticeable lisp throughout. As Prince Christopher, Paolo Montalban brings his attractive looks, voice, and charm to the role quite effectively while repeating the performance he gave in a television version of the musical from several years ago. The two casting choices of greatest interest are of the motherly figures. Entertainment legend Eartha Kitt shines with her "unique" style and flair as the Fairy Godmother. Though not entirely appropriate for the role, Ms. Kitt is a true professional and remains spry, daring, and sexy. She obviously enjoys performing and is a joy to watch. The role of the Stepmother is played here by the cross-dressing Everett Quinton. Having previously played women in other roles, he knows exactly how to walk the fine line between camp and creative fun. The rest of the ensemble perform capably and put various skills, including puppeteering, juggling, acrobatics, singing, and dancing, to good use.
Gabriel Barre has made many wonderful choices as Director. The use of puppets for the mice, cat, and dove is inventive, delightful, and a highlight of the production. He deserves special praise for his creative and effective use of projected shadows and a scrim map during the "Search" scene. Mr. Barre was impressive in his previous directorial efforts, the Off-Broadway Wild Party and Summer of '42 , which played in Dayton in the fall and will be seen on Broadway at the end of this year. Therefore, his success here is not surprising. The sets, lighting, and costumes bring a fantasy-filled atmosphere to the show and are highly imaginative, colorful, and attractive. The musical debuted in 1957 as a television broadcast and the score by Broadway legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II contains many attractive gems. The songs are further enhanced by fine updated orchestrations and arrangements under the supervision of Andrew Lippa.
Cinderella is not thought-provoking or conscious-raising
theater. However, it is a professional, well-executed, fun, and
imaginative presentation of a well-loved tale and is bound to conjure or
rekindle the dreams of romance and fantasy in all of us. Cinderella
continues at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati through March 4, 2001.
-- Scott Cain