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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Cinderella

Also see Susan's reviews of The Little Prince and Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis

Cinderella
Will Ray and Erin Driscoll
If any musical is critic-proof, it would have to be the version of Cinderella with songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical has been familiar for generations in its three television versions (1957 with Julie Andrews, 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren, and 1997 with Brandy), and it's a touchstone of growing up to many people. Happily, after a slow opening, Olney Theatre Center's production of Cinderella succeeds in bringing audiences under its spell.

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
Cinderella
November 15th December 31st
Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book adapted by Mark Waldrop
Fairy Godmother: Deb G. Girdler
Herald: Chris Sizemore
Stepmother: Karlah Hamilton
Portia: Jenna Sokolowski
Joy: Michele Tauber
Cinderella: Erin Driscoll
Queen: Patricia Hurley
King: Christopher Flint
Cook: Monica Lijewski
Steward: Michael Vitaly Sazonov
Prince: Will Ray
Townspeople of the Kingdom: Laura Kelley, Michael Kenny, Timothy Dale Lewis, Monica Lijewski, Michael Vitaly Sazonov, Margo Seibert
Directed by Mark Waldrop
Choreographer: Michele Mossay-Cuevas
Musical director: Christopher Youstra
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or www.olneytheatre.org


Photo: Stan Barouh


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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