Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella began as a live television production, airing on March 31, 1957. It was presented once again on television, with Richard Rodgers as executive producer, in 1965 and an updated remake was televised in 1997. Stage versions have been presented since 1958 and the current touring version, adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs, is a production designed for children of the 21st century, though the glorious collection of Rodgers & Hammerstein songs (with two added for this tour) is still present.
This production could be called Extreme Cinderella. The costumes are garish patchworks of gaudy colors and patterns, the sets are cartoonish and exaggerated, and many of the characters are from the "in your face" school of performing arts. The cast is multi-cultural and cross-gendered and the dialogue draws heavily from recent teen culture ("move it or lose it," "Duh!", "been there, done that"). If this is not your idea of fine theatre, you can just sit back and enjoy the multitude of magnificent classic songs by Rodgers & Hammerstein (including " Ten Minutes Ago," "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?," "A Lovely Night" and the newly added "The Sweetest Sounds"). Andrew Lippa's arrangements are commendable.
The cast is headed, credit-wise, by veteran stage performer Eartha Kitt, appearing as the Fairy Godmother. Her take on the character could only be done by her -- it is more Eartha than Godmother, including the panther moves and growling for which she is known. Ms. Kitt appears to be a little removed from this production, with her expressions alternating between bored and perturbed, but she eats up the audience reaction whenever she makes a move that proves her spunk and her physical flexibility are still present. As the Prince, Paolo Montalban repeats his performance from the 1997 televised production. His character is the least developed of all, and he isn't able to give the Prince much flavor, but he is likeable and in good voice. Jamie-Lynn Sigler, in the title role, is also challenged by a role that isn't multi-dimensional. Her only tasks are to look amazed and to cry, and there are plenty of displays of both. Her voice, in the pop style, is good enough for the songs, though perhaps not big enough for the title role. Comic relief is provided in abundance by Everett Quinton (The Stepmother), Brooks Ashmanskas (Lionel), NaTasha Yvette Williams & Alexandra Kolb (Stepsisters Grace & Joy), and Leslie Becker & Ken Prymus (Queen & King). Various animal friends of Cinderella are presented by puppets and, though not always worked effectively, they add to the cartoon feel of the show.
Cinderella, in this version, is less a stage play than a comedy skit show. The classic tale is almost hidden by the broad humor, gaudy paint, and sassy talk, but maybe this is what it takes to sell a classic to children of the 21st century. The show is still called "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella," but it's very far from what Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein conceived in 1957.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella is presented by Mellon Bank, the Pittsburgh Broadway Series, NETworks, and Marshalls at Heinz Hall through May 20. Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs, from the teleplay by Robert L. Freedman. Musical Supervision and arrangements by Andrew Lippa. Choreographed by Ken Roberson. Directed by Gabriel Barre. Starring Eartha Kitt, Paolo Montalban, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and featuring Brooks Ashmanskas, Leslie Becker, Alexandra Kolb, Ken Prymus, Everett Quinton, NaTasha Yvette Williams.