Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Director Mark Waldrop is working mostly with the 1957 script by Hammerstein, with a few adaptations based on the two subsequent television versions. His changes seem to be minor, specifically the addition of two Rodgers and Hammerstein songs from other sources, and perhaps a few new wisecracks.
Waldrop wisely understands that Cinderella must appeal to all ages if it is going to succeed. He uses slapstick and broad performances to keep younger viewers interested, but includes more subtle touches for the adults, as well as some wordplay that will go right over the children's heads.
The production starts out with an insistently jokey tone that soon becomes annoying: the Fairy Godmother (Deb G. Girdler) addresses the audience in front of the curtain, then attempts to "start the show" in the manner of a music box or a clock by inserting and turning a key inserted in the stage floor. Once the action gets going, though, the production rapidly gets better.
Erin Driscoll is a straightforward and resilient Cinderella, rolling with the punches and doing her best to stand up to her imperious Stepmother (Karlah Hamilton) and stepsisters, skinny Portia (Jenna Sokolowski) and portly Joy (Michele Tauber). Driscoll has a soaring soprano voice and radiant golden hair, and only a few smudges on her face to suggest her hard life in the kitchen.
Will Ray plays the Prince as a little callow, searching for something he doesn't understand. (The addition of the song "Loneliness of Evening" makes a difference here.) He and Driscoll are well matched, both in looks and in quality of singing.
As often happens, the stepsisters get the most riotous business. Sokolowski, wearing a pyramid-shaped red wig and glasses, and Tauber, who resembles an upholstered apple dumpling in her many-layered costumes, take advantage of every opportunity. Their duet on "Stepsisters' Lament" is delightful. Hamilton is appropriately stern as a domestic tyrant, but she also does justice to her occasional bit of physical comedy.
Christopher Flint and Patricia Hurley do well in the thinly drawn roles of the King and Queen: he's childlike and petulant, she's maternal and understanding. Girdler manages to fight past the insufferable, smug side of the Fairy Godmother's personality.
Michael Anania's scenic design is fluid but also rather sparse, showing a lot of blank space on the stage among the few free-standing set pieces. Sekula Sinadinovski's costumes take up the slack, as do the wigs designed by Hamilton.
Olney Theatre Center