Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Also see Mark's review of Other Desert Cities
This is a delightful production of the musical. The youthful 25-member cast brings a magical exuberance and chemistry that sweeps the audience along on a fast-paced journey where time flows quickly by without anyone noticing.
Cinderella (Kaitlyn Mayse) is the step-daughter of Madam (Sarah Smith) and is forced to wait hand and foot on her and her two socially challenged daughters, Gabrielle (Natalie Girard) and Charlotte (Joanna Johnson). Her only friend is Crazy Marie (Zina Ellis), who spouts a collection of gibberish.
Prince Topher (Lukas James Miller) has returned from college to take over the reins of power after his parents have died. While out slaying oversize praying mantises, griffins, gargoyles, giants and dragons, he happens upon Cinderella at her cottage where she brings some water for the thirsty royal. They have a moment.
Upon returning to the castle, the prince's Lord Chancellor, Sebastian (Christopher Swan), meets with his henchman Lord Pinkleton (Carlos Morales) to arrange a grand ball in order for the 21-year-old prince to find a wife. The entire kingdom is in a fever as all of the eligible women try to outdo each other in order to win his favor and the grand prize of being crowned queen. As Madame and the girls are in a frenzied rush of preparation for the grand ball, Crazy Marie suddenly turns into the Fairy Godmother and comes to the aid of the left-behind Cinderella as the magic begins.
Kaitlyn Mayse is superb in the title role, as is Lukas James Miller as Prince Topher. You can sense a real chemistry between the two (enough to give you goosebumps). The triple comedy threat of Sarah Smith (Madam), Natalie Girard (Gabrielle), and especially Joanna Johnson (who was cheered for her performance as Charlotte at the performance I attended) have nailed the step roles (mother-sister-sister) to the point of laugh-out-loud hilarity. Joanna shines in her center-stage performance of "Stepsister's Lament."
Nic Casaula does a fine turn as Jean-Michel (Gabrielle's love interest and neighborhood political agitator), with some political barbs that hit very close to home. The biggest surprise is Zina Ellis as Marie, who steals the show with her wonderful full voice that is featured in two numbers. In fact, huge kudos go out to the entire ensemble who, when in full voice, fill the huge theater with wonderful song that is further enhanced by the meticulous sound design by Nevin Steinberg, fully utilizing every aspect of the Connor Palace system.
The set designed by Anna Louizos is a bit of magic unto itself, as forest glade transforms to cottage exterior to cottage interior to palace to ballroom and back and forth, all seamlessly mastered. The costumes designed by William Ivey Long are fully detailed and lavish. One of the delights of the show is the on-stage instant costume changes of Marie and Ella that happen in the blink of an eye. Of special note also is the choreography, originally designed by Josh Rhodes and handled aptly for the tour by Lee Wilkins. It is energetic with lots of wonderful gymnastics combined with precise synchronized movement.
A big part of the magic is in the orchestra, featuring Ryan Sigurdson, music director/conductor/keyboard; Dean Balan, associate music director/keyboard; Mona Seyed-Bolorforosh, keyboard; Kenneth Advocat And Michael Brinzer, reeds; Michael Stephen Meza, trumpet; Scott Cho, trombone; Tim Nwranski, percussion. The music supervisor is Greg Anthony Rassen. The sound they produce is a full symphonic rendering of the Rodgers and Hammerstein score, which fits well with the story (new book by Douglas Carter Beane). The cast is expertly directed by Gina Rattan, who moves the action along faster than you can say "abracadabra."
This is the perfect show to bring young princes and princesses to for their first exposure to live theater. They will be enchanted by the music, costumes, sound, lights sets, and theatre magic.
Sometimes even a chestnut like Cinderella can surprise and delight. In this case, it's the cast that brings out the magic carried solidly on the shoulders of youthful enthusiasm. Bring the entire clan for an astounding mid-winter break of happiness. It will have you believing that wishes can come true.
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, part of the Huntington Bank Featured Performance Series, through Sunday, January 20, 2019, at the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square, Cleveland OH. Tickets may be purchased on line by going to www.playhousesquare.org, by phone at 216-241-6000, or by stopping by the Playhouse Square box office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre. For more information on the tour, visit www.cinderellaonbroadway.com/tour/.