Music and Magic Galore in Cinderella at the Paramount
Playwright Beane tweaks the familiar tale quite a bit. Not only has Cinderella lost both of her birth parents, but so has Prince Christopher (who goes by Topher), who has recently returned from years of schooling abroad to a kingdom that has fallen into a bit of unrest and disrepair as he was growing up under the controlling hand of a wily Prime Minister. Cinderella herself has more gumption and fighting spirit when it comes to those even more downtrodden than herself, but she is still controlled and abused by her wicked stepmother Madame and obnoxious stepsister Charlotte, while her milder other stepsister Gabrielle pines for a chubby, well-meaning protester named Jean-Michel, whom Madame detests. Finally, there is a crazy bag lady sort named Marie (who reveals herself as the Fairy Godmother), who has chosen to aid Cinderella as she alone has shown Marie kindness, something this Cinderella has in droves. There's of course a ball, but there is also a banquet, and the part where the shoe fits before the tale reaches its happily ever after.
Director Mark Brokaw repeats the ace job he did on Broadway, and has packaged the tour version of the show just as handsomely, replete with Josh Rhodes' exuberant choreography. He also has a cast that is equal and in some roles superior to the cast I saw mid-way through the Broadway run. Paige Faure is a feisty, quirky and charming Cinderella, giving the role an additional boost of humor which is to the good. She's an underdog to be reckoned with and as she sings "In My Own Little Corner" you just know she's not going to remain in one for long. She is well paired with Andy Jones as Prince Topher, who sings his ballad-heavy heart out on such tunes as "Ten Minutes Ago," "Loneliness of Evening," and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" in tandem with her. The broad comedy, in both senses of the word, is handled by rubber-faced Aymee Garcia as stepsister Charlotte, who earns her laughs and then some with "Stepsister's Lament" which she sings flanked by the other village damsels. As the kinder, gentler stepsister, Gabrielle Kaitlyn Davidson is full of whimsy and expert subtle comic timing, and finds an ideal romantic partner in the puppyish energy and fervor of David Andino's Jean-Michele.
Beth Glover effortlessly conveys the nouveau-rich attitudes of Madame to perfection (and she is somewhat a dead ringer for a younger Holland Taylor). As the scheming Sebastian, Blake Hammond is full of deadpan comic bombast. And finally we come to Kecia Lewis as Marie. This amazing performer goes from a convincing impression of a pitiable homeless old lady to Glittering Glamazon, and may well possess the most exquisite and wide-ranging voice in the company. Although her "Impossible" is charming but not challenging, she brings a radiant luster to her penultimate moments onstage, killing it with the mega-obscure but appealing Rodgers & Hammerstein song "There's Music in You." Clearly, this a talent is only waiting for a star Broadway show to launch a huge leading lady career.
Choreographer Josh Rhodes shows off his ensemble choreographic skills on "Cinderella Waltz," "The Prince Is Giving a Ball," and especially "The Pursuit," but he imbues the whole show with heightened movement throughout, which works well on this sort of fantasy material. Anna Louizos' right out of a fairytale scenic designs mesh beautifully with the dreamy lighting design of Kenneth Posner, while the terrific rainbow spectrum costumes by William Ivey Long are terrific, and play into the truly magical transformation of Cinderella from scullery maid to mysterious royal.
The opening night audience gave number after number a big hand, hearty chuckles, and even a few tears from those recalling their first time seeing Cinderella on one of those long, long ago video broadcasts. This is a more socially relevant fairytale heroine, but the tale is timelessly entertaining and in this all too literal world the Hammerstein message that "Impossible things are happening everyday" is a welcome reminder of happier days.
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella runs through March 1, 2015, the Paramount Theatre at 9th and Pine in Downtown Seattle. For ticketing and other information, visit Seattle Theatre Group online at www.stgpresents.org. For more information on the tour, visit cinderellaonbroadway.com/tour.