Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist and original book writer Oscar Hammerstein II created "Cinderella" for television in 1957 (with Julie Andrews), with subsequent versions in 1965 (starring Leslie Ann Warren) and 1997 (Brandy). This production marks the first time the score appeared on Broadway, where it opened in 2013. Each of the earlier versions had a different book, but they all followed the story about the kindly, abused young woman who wins the heart of a prince through magical intervention without getting into issues of class struggle.
In this version, Ella (Kaitlyn Davidson) is not only gentle and sensitive, she's intelligent. The orphaned Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones) is handsome and brave, but he allows his advisor Sebastian (Blake Hammond, playing as broadly as a Disney villain) to run the country.
As reimagined by Beane, Sebastian proposes the ball as a political stratagem to distract the people from his rapacious policies, and Ellawho supports the views of the firebrand Jean-Michel (David Andino, earnest and endearing) and her stepsister Gabrielle (Kimberly Fauré), who loves himtalks to the prince about income inequality even as they fall in love. ("How can he be a world leader? He has a heart, a mind, and a soul," Ella wonders.) The glass slippers are still an important part of the plot, as is the transformation of the neighborhood eccentric Crazy Marie (Liz McCartney) into a resplendent fairy godmother.
Davidson gives a lovely performance and Jones is appropriately noble as he finds his purpose, but the supporting players tend to take the focus. In addition to McCartney and Andino, Blair Ross is deliciously nasty as the stepmother, while Fauré and rowdy Aymee Garcia do well as the stepsisters.
Director Mark Brokaw keeps the action moving at a good pace and makes the most of the moments of spectacle, especially the appearance of the flying filigree coach and horses covered with small lights (part of Anna Louizos' picture-book scenic design) and the swirling revelation of William Ivey Long's flashiest costumes.
The National Theatre