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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Theatrical Enchantment Waves Its Magic Wand on 5th Avenue's production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

Also see David's review of A Christmas Carol

Cinderella
Sarah Rudinoff, Suzanne Bouchard and Nick Garrison
There is a great deal of theatrical enchantment to be found on the stage of the 5th Avenue Theatre this holiday season as an awesomely talented, all Seattle cast (including Broadway émigré Kendra Kassebaum) wave their collective magic wand upon the Seattle premiere staging of the most recent stage revision (based freely on the Brandy-starred TV film) of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Joyfully and tastefully directed by Brandon Ivie, here given his first shot at directing for a big-time Equity theatre, the show is a tightly paced, opulent and airy delight from start to finish.

Tom Briggs' stage adaptation of Robert L. Freedman's screenplay is the most contemporary of takes on the venerable fairytale, which manages to successfully shoehorn songs that were ultimately banished from two R&H stage smashes (South Pacific's plaintive "The Loneliness of Evening" and "Boys and Girls Like You and Me" first cut from Oklahoma!, then from the films Meet Me in St. Louis and Take Me Out to the Ballgame), a song they wrote for the forgotten film Main Street to Broadway ("There's Music in You") and "The Sweetest Sounds" from Rodgers' only solo effort as composer/lyricist, No Strings. This fills out the rather brief score they team first wrote for the piece as a 75-minute TV spectacular for Julie Andrews in 1957, and Ivie's cast does handsomely by the lovely melodies and felicitous lyrics.

In the title role, Jennifer Paz is a charming Cinderella who summons up enough spunk to get her wishes granted and triumph over her soul-stifling step-family. Paz is far more commanding here than she was a few holiday season's back as Belle in Village's Beauty and the Beast, making her featured numbers "In My Only Little Corner" and "A Lovely Night," sparkle, and she is happily met by Brandon O'Neil's slightly goofy and rich voiced Prince Christopher, as they share the love duets "Ten Minutes Ago" and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?." And O'Neill's warm baritone justifies the inclusion of "Loneliness of Evening" in the show.

Allan Fitzpatrick and Cynthia Jones make for a charming pair of genially sparring but still romantic pair of senior royals as the King and Queen, and their "Boys and Girls" is a warm moment. But the show's heavy artillery comes out of Suzanne Bouchard's ace turn as the wickedest of wicked stepmothers, and Sarah Rudinoff and Nick Garrison's vain-arrogant step-sisters. Rudinoff and Garrison deliver a "Stepsisters Lament" that sets a gold standard for this well-worn number, and Kendra Kassebaum, a former Galinda in Wicked, is a blithely comic Fairy Godmother (think Galinda with added wisdom) who makes vocal magic with "Impossible" and "There's Music in You." And finally, Greg Allen gives a wry and abundantly comic spin to the prince's opinionated sidekick Lionel. He and Bouchard share a wonderful few moments when Lionel has to thwart the Stepmother's flirtations. The principal cast is sturdily supported by an ensemble of first-rate talents who shine in the big ballroom scenes.

Broadway's Noah Racey has created charming dances for a show that is a walk in the park to choreograph compared to his last local triumph, reinventing the choreography in the 5th's recent Guys and Dolls. The eye-poppingly extravagant costumes by Renato Balestra are the stuff that dreams are made of, and scenic designs are their equal. Bruce Monroe's musical direction honors the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and it's so nice to hear such Broadway scores played by the 5th's large and accomplished orchestras.

Cinderella is an ideal holiday offering, light hearted without hauling out the holiday trappings that can grow weary in this season. It rings out the old year and ushers in the new with brio! Cinderella runs through December 31 at the 5th Avenue Theater, 1308 Fifth Ave, downtown Seattle. For more information go to www.5thavenue.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David Edward Hughes



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