Music by Richard Rodgers and Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Reviewed by Tim Treanor
I am going to give you this straight up, without frou-frou or folderol. If your kids have not yet become cynical, or worse, analytical, you should take them to this show. I know it’s a little pricey. So’s college, but there you are, going over your money-market accounts trying to figure out a way for young (eg.) Priscilla to enroll in (eg.) Yale in (eg.) 2019. All I’m saying is, before you send her off to conquer the world, let her see a few good shows.
Oh – and before you take her, explain what “aerate your compost” means. Seventy kids asking that question at once can be pretty annoying.
Cinderella is minor Rogers and Hammerstein. They originally wrote it as a television production in 1957, and the low-fidelity, black-and-white limitations of the medium may have hampered the scope of their musical ambition. (The dialogue seems to have been modernized. A particularly witty bit involving the Secret Service seems new.) This is not one of those clever modern shows which are pitched on one level to adults and on another to youngsters. This show is for the kiddies.
Olney plays the heck out of it nonetheless. Erin Driscoll in the title role is superb – a sweet, powerful voice which manages never to be cloying. Will Ray matches her note for note and gift for gift, as the Prince. The scene in which they first gaze at each other – their faces and bodies saying, mutely but plainly, oh, there you are – is priceless. These are immensely talented young performers who will satisfy audiences – I hope here, but certainly somewhere – for years to come.
An amiable exuberant cast backs them up. Particularly notable are Jenna Sokolowski and Michele Tauber as stepsisters who are less wicked than ridiculous; Karlah Hamilton as a deliciously evil stepmother; Deb G. Girdler as the blasé fairy godmother; and Christopher Flint as a King who was also a (this coincidence is almost too good to be true) skinflint.
Best of all is the truly magical moment when Girdler decides at last to transform Cinderella’s life. Before our eyes, a pumpkin turns into a coach, mice turn into horses – and Driscoll, in the blink of an eye, trades her patched rags for an $8000 Dior original, and acquires a head of hair that looks like the product of eighty minutes in the makeup room. How do they do it? Ask the kid sitting next to you, after she picks her jaw up off the floor.
One of the pieces of magic that didn’t work last night was when Ray, frustrated, tossed the glass slipper in the air. Girdler was supposed to field it in her dress, but she lost it in the lights and it smacked her in the face. That’s live theater, baby! Girdler gamely chased it down and gave us all the thumb’s-up sign before taking her exit, amidst cheers.
Afterwards, Cinderella and the Prince patiently signed autographs for a line of kids. Should Driscoll have signed autographs in character after she finished playing her last role? Absolutely! Signature Theatre would have had a line a mile long waiting to get Squeaky Fromm’s autograph! Old too soon, smart too late, I suppose.
Look, this is a show for kids, not aging lawyers. Don’t ask me, ask them. My dear bride interviewed a gaggle of them and these are the results she got – the real dctheatrereviews take on Olney’s Cinderella.
Elana Harris, age 9: “the magic was very exciting. And it was funny.”
Erica Garagiola, age 5, who was seeing a play for the first time: “It was cool that it was alive.”
Her sister Elissa, age 6, said that kids should come to see if they can figure out how they make the magic work.
Isabella Colbin, age 10, particularly liked the king and the funny things he said about being married.
Caitlin Deerin, age 7, who was also seeing a play for the first time, loved the wedding scene. “I have two Disney movies of Cinderella and I like this much better.”
So there you are. The experts have spoken.
Cinderella plays at Olney Theatre Center on Tuesdays through Sundays until December 31. Tuesdays are at 7.30; all other shows are at 8 pm. Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 pm. Purchase tickets through the website: www.olneytheatre.org or by calling the Olney box office at 301.924.3200. Tickets range from $39 to $44. Children under 18 are half price.