In the theater, when something you love is done well, there’s a sense of euphoria as you leave: “thank goodness they didn’t mess it up.” That is indeed the case, I am happy to report, with Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, now at the National for an all-too-short run through November 29.
For those of us born at a certain time, the original 1960s television version with Lesley Ann Warren was a treat we looked forward to each Christmas: such music! Such a handsome price! And those glass slippers!
It’s all there at the National and happily and joyfully updated, too, with new, funny book by Douglas Carter Beane and all the music you remember by those giants of musical theatre, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
This musical would be so easy to mess up, to make it maudlin and expected and sticky sweet, but the show is instead imbued and invigorated with a good-natured sense of irreverent humor.
Cinderella, as played by powerhouse Kaitlyn Davidson, is no goody-two shoes here; she’s a real human being, gifted with a heavenly voice. Prince Topher is no longer a cardboard Prince Charming; Andy Huntington Jones lends him a delightful Michael Phelps-like goofiness and gawkiness that makes him all the more charming for his flaws.
This is a strong cast; several standouts are Blair Ross as Madam, the stepmother- yes, wicked she may be, but her barbs are placed with wonderfully graceful comedic timing. Liz McCartey as Marie the Fairy Godmother has one of the best voices on stage, and considerable faith in stagehands- it takes some bravery to go flying around each night suspended only by luck and thin cables. Stepsister Gabrielle, as played by erstwhile beauty Kimberly Faure, is pretty enough to be a Cinderella herself but masks it well and plays her part to the hilt.
But the gem of the show is stepsister Charlotte. As played by Aymee Garcia (in an appropriately hideous, voluminous pink gown with hysterically overblown wig), you’ll find yourself unable to take your eyes off this natural comedian. She simply steals every scene she’s in.
RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA
November 18 – November 29, 2015
The National Theatre
1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
2 1/2 hours with 1 intermission
Tickets: $48 – $108
Tuesdays thru Sundays
It’s a beautiful, lavish production, with gorgeous Art Nouveau inspired sets by Anna Louzios and costumes by William Ivey Long. The costumes alone are a reason to go: a candy hued confection of bright colors is onstage just for you. And the split second transition of poor Cinderella to ballroom Cinderella has to be seen to be believed. Everyone, kids and adults alike, gasped at this magician’s trick- it’s pretty darn wonderful. And the pumpkin coach and puppet horses? Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, and oh so cleverly done on a huge revolving setpiece.
Speaking of kids, don’t kid yourselves that this is a kid’s show only. Yes, there were plenty of little girls in sequined party dresses in the audience, and yes, they were twirling around ballroom style near the concessions at intermission. But that’s a good thing. This is a modern Cinderella, who in this retooled version, rescues her prince just as much as he rescues her.
So yes, Cinderella is grand for the kiddies, no doubt. And yet… the evening I attended, during intermission, near the dancing children and concessions, I had the good fortune to overhear a young man saying to his girlfriend: “I brought you here so you could see a fellow princess.” Zowie.
Gentlemen, take note: any guy smart enough to bring his significant other here for date night will get about a trazillion romance points.
The National Theatre has raised its security level which delays admission. Best to arrive a half hour early, as the crush of folks arriving for the sold out show was considerable.
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella . Music by Richard Rodgers . Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II . New book by Douglas Carter Beane . Original Book by Oscar Hammerstein II . Directed by Mark Brokaw . Featuring Kaitlyn Davidson as Cinderella, Andy Huntington Jones as Prince Topher, David Andino as Jean-Michel, Kimberly Faure as Gabrielle, Aymee Garcia as Charlotte, Blake Hammond as Sebastian, Chauncey Packer as Lord Pinkleton, Blair Ross as Madame, Liz McCartney as Marie. Ensemble: Chip Abbot, Adrian Baidoo, Summer Broyhill, Audrey Cadwell, Cody Davis, Rachel Fairbanks, Alexandria Frohlinger, Jordana Grolnick, Laura Irion, Eric Anthony Jhnson, Ben Lanham, Lauren Lukacek, Sean Seymour, Lauren Sprague, Paige Williams, Tanner Ray Wilson, Thad Turner Wilson, John Yi, Darius Barnes .
Scenic Design: Anna Louizos. Costume Design: William Ivey Long . Lighting: Kennith Posner . Sound Design: Nevin Steinberg . Choreography: Josh Rhodes . Music Adaptation, Supervision & Arrangements: David Chase . Presented by The National Theatre . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.