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3/4/13

Cinderella - A Conflict-Free Crowd Pleaser

Cinderella is kind of a funny story. Not so much the actual fairytale we have to come to know and love, but moreso, the new, updated take on the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, now open at the Broadway Theater. And the man most responsible for this...everyone's lovable and "inappropriate at your family gathering" uncle, Douglas Carter Beane.

Of all the elements on and off-stage, it is Beane's book that becomes the thing I keep going back to, for good and bad reasons. The bad reasons...well, his modified version of Cinderella does little to convey Cinderella's initial ostracism, what with her step sisters being, like, nice and awkward and comic relief and stuff. Oh sure, the evil stepmother is in the picture and Harriet Harris hauls ass in that regard with scenery-chewing one-liners...but between the "she doesn't really have it THAT bad" set-up and the fact that show's conflicts range from nonexistent to "kind of relevant, but silly and ambiguous" (The Prince is confused and...angsty? A new character, Jean Michel, strives to alert the Prince of...poverty? A random election at the end?), there's just nothing there to offset the big ball of Princess-ey fluff the show is...

 Where are her wings and halo?!
Which brings me to my next point...I really don't mind that all too much in the face of what Beane brings to the table. Lines like, "a lot of crazy women wear dresses" and "everytime they speak, I die a little bit on the inside" are most definitely not in your mother's or grandmother's version of Cinderella. The book updates feel appropriate for the realm of the show, yet wink at the audience whom love their side dishes of bitchery and sly humor. It is Beane's aesthetic to a "T" that he has nailed in everything he has done and quite frankly, I love it here. The story may not have even the slightest bit of tension on the road to Cinderella and the Prince's wedding (spoiler alert, but not really because you knew that), but it's a whole lot of fun, whimsey and spectacle getting there...

Front and center is Laura Osnes, who looks, sings and acts like perfection in human form. Her speaking and singing voices are so spot-on for the role of Cinderella, that I can't even. She's so charming and lovely and thin and beautiful in all the big, poofy, ball gowns, that (1) you understand why the Prince desires her so greatly and (2) you want to invite her over to every social gathering you have for the rest of forever and watch her sparkle from her fabulosity. She may give me low self-esteem that I am not her and never will be (thus, I've ate about 17 pints of ice cream in the last month), but her performance and general well-being gives me life in every other way.

Santino Fontana's Prince character comes off way too serious, what with all of his feelz and his plight for purpose in the world (which at times, his proclamations are unintentionally hilarious). But the dude sings well and you want to pat him on the head for just wanting to be a nice, altruistic Prince. For the most part, he actually holds his own opposite Diva Osnes, which is no small feat. Another standout in the ensemble is Victoria Clarke's Sweeney Todd-ish beggar woman-turned-Fairy Godmother. She clearly has a lot of fun with the reveal and the flying around; her energy was downright infectious. One of my favorite moments, courtesy of Mark Brokaw's wonderful direction, is the "Impossible; It's Possible" number between Osnes and Clarke, which was so beautifully sung, ethereal and well-executed, the stage damn-near gave birth to a unicorn by number's end.

In fact, Brokaw's direction as a whole is just about perfect considering the variety of stage mechanics, costume changes and props involved in executing the show. And William Ivey Long's costumes are so jaw-droppingly stunning, the Metropolitan Museum of Art should scoop them up for an exhibit down the road. And while this isn't one of my favorite R&H scores, it is wonderful to see certain numbers staged on Broadway for the first time, from Cinderella's character solo "In My Own Little Corner" to some of its more grandiose ones.

Enjoy it all, readers...let's be thankful that this musical doesn't suck, unlike every other new musical in the last few years (with a few exceptions). And for its two-and-a-half hour runtime, it's a beautiful fairytale unfolding right before your eyes with happiness, confectioners sugar and rainbows spewing all over the place. Qualm over the book all you want, it's Cinderella and a pretty-darn good interpretation of it.


Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg via Broadway.com

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