Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Inspecting Carol
For anyone who grew up watching any of the three different TV versions of the musical, this stage adaptation drops some of the small screen characters, adds others, and also incorporates a few songs that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for other musicals and movies, most of which were eventually cut from those works. But most importantly, it also features an updated book by Douglas Carter Beane that fleshes out the original mostly stereotypical characters and adds a modern sensibility to the piece that includes focusing on social issues in the Prince's kingdom. The original story still follows the relationship between Cinderella and the Prince, but there is also now an added, larger emphasis on the other members of the fairy-tale land as Cinderella tries to show the Prince that there are less fortunate members of his kingdom who are fighting injustice which the Prince had a hand in creating. These additions help transform the show from a simple fairy tale into a richer piece full of characters that have more dimension and a story that incorporates social injustice to portray the battle of cruelty verses kindness. Beane also incorporates many bits of humor and, while not all of the jokes land, they at least make the overall show more contemporary.
While this is the secondary cast for a slightly scaled back second leg of the national tour, the leads all do quite well in inhabiting these lovable characters. Tatyana Lubov projects an air of simplicity, a deep sense of caring for her fellow members of the Kingdom, and natural elegance as Cinderella with a singing voice that shines. As Prince Topher, Louis Griffin is both quirky and noble as the young man who doesn't quite know what to do with his life. Like Lubov, his vocals are lush and layered and soar on his many solos and duos. Both Lubov and Griffin have a natural ease in delivering Hammerstein's lyrics with a clear understanding of the romance they derive, and the duo create a couple you instantly root to see succeed.
As the fairy godmother Marie, Leslie Jackson is equally humorous and commanding with a magnificently sung "There's Music in You. Sarah Smith has a blast as Cinderella's wicked stepmother, while Nicole Zelka and Joanna Johnson portray her two very peculiar stepsisters with ease. Johnson elicits plenty of humor expertly, while Zelka is sweet as the sympathetic sister. Corbin Williams evokes a nice level of concern for the downtrodden in the kingdom as the new character Jean-Michel, while Christopher Swan is quite good as the conspiring male antagonist Lord Chancellor Sebastian who is Topher's main advisor. Vincent B. Davis rounds out the main cast as Lord Pinkleton with a deep, rich voice that delivers on his solos.
Gina Rattan's tour direction, modeled on Mark Brokaw's original direction, is quite good. However, while the transitions are seamless and keep the show moving and the characters are clearly defined, there are a few jokes that are rushed or not delivered appropriately enough to get the laughs they should. Josh Rhodes' original choreography, staged for the tour by Lee Wilkins, is simply beautiful and delivered expertly by the large cast. Anna Louizos' set design is rich and layered with an abundance of effective elements. The rest of the tour creative elements are almost exact copies of the Tony nominated 2013 Broadway designs, with William Ivey Long's Tony winning costumes, which include several that transform before our eyes, truly spectacular. Ken Posner's lighting is rich and expressive. The many scenes set at night are incredibly effective due to Posner's stunning abilities.
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella has a lush, romantic score as well as an updated book that adds a fresh spin on this famous fairy tale. With a cast who embody these beloved characters with ease and an abundance of magical moments that deliver both gasps and rounds of applause from the audience, the national tour of this well-known story is a beautiful and magical crowd pleaser.
Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, through December 24th, 2017, at ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Avenue in Tempe AZ. Tickets can be purchased at www.asugammage.com or by calling 480-965-3434. Additional tour dates can be found at www.cinderellaonbroadway.com/tour
Music, Lyrics and Original Book: Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II