Orange County Theatre Reviews

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

We live in a world where comedians make big bucks to roll their eyes over the antics of politicians and “new” movies with recycled plots, sarcasm is almost reflexive.  So it was very tempting for me to scorn the arrival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts simply because of how NOT new it is.  Then I watched the actual show, and all of the cynicism and snark melted away.

Kaitlyn Davidson from the Rodgers Hammersteins CINDERELLA tour photo by Carol Rosegg

Kaitlyn Davidson from the Rodgers Hammersteins CINDERELLA tour photo by Carol Rosegg

Cinderella is a household name.  The oft told story of a cruel step-family forcing a kind hearted maiden forced into servitude is known to everyone.  But not everyone is familiar with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.  Even if you are, it does not mean you are familiar with the new and modernized (if not necessarily improved) production of the show. In this version Cinderella not only cleans and goes to a ball, she befriends her impoverished neighbors and convinces them to use their voices and stand up for what is right. Her kindness not only benefits herself but benefits, for all intents and purposes, her entire world.

There are a wide variety of colors in this production.  The costumes aren’t always elaborate but are colorful enough to keep the attention of every child in the audience.  A few of the sets are plain (such as the scene in the marketplace), but the action makes up for those moments.   In fact, the acting, singing, dialogue, and overall story play so well in front of you that the colors and details you might glean from the set are just bonuses.  The really important moments, such as the moments where Cinderella dons a ball gown and a (spoiler alert) wedding dress, are done with justice.  I brought an 8-year-old relative to watch this show with me, and she could not stop gasping at Cinderella’s finery.  When Cinderella sparkled at the ball, my guest clapped.  When she walked down the aisle, she whispered, “Oh my gosh, she’s so beautiful!”

Speaking of Cinderella’s attire, the effects in this show are (I have to say it) magical. Every transformation is exciting to watch and definitely worth the trip.  Through a combination of spinning spell casting and sleight of hand we get to see multiple rags to riches effects.

It’s not particularly frightening.  The scariest parts involve the stepmother having angry melt downs.  I thought perhaps some of the younger children might be frightened of the wicked stepmother, but I saw a two-year-old in a tuxedo and didn’t hear any crying, so what do I know.  The story is essentially the same with some major plot additions, such as a focus on politics. This Cinderella is not merely fixated on looking pretty and finding love (although they are understandable endeavors).  She is also interested in helping her townspeople friends and has unshakeable faith in the goodness in the hearts of others.  Admittedly it’s kind of obvious the story was written this way to allow Cinderella to set a better example for young girls and make her less of a damsel in distress (check this link for definition).  But it does not make the show less enjoyable to watch. I understand why this musical is different than the version Julie Andrews did in 1957. However, this show does not take anything away. They added things to it.  There is a heavy emphasis in this story on the need for kindness and understanding.  While I find it plausible, and in fact probable, some of the younger audience members will be bored with the political dialogue, these moments are brief but fleshes out all the characters in a way that keeps the attention of every adult in the audience while the original components of the classic Cinderella story remain intact.

Rodgers Hammersteins CINDERELLA tour company photo by Carol Rosegg

Rodgers Hammersteins CINDERELLA tour company photo by Carol Rosegg

Something absolutely essential to Cinderella is for Cinderella to be likable.  She must be nice.  But she can’t be too nice, or she’ll get annoying.  Kaitlyn Davidson strikes a nice balance.  She’s kind hearted and lovable in the role without being perfect.  Her Cinderella is actually kind of dorky. It’s understandable how a person like her can fall prey to her stepmother, the spiteful and vindictive Madame (played by Blair Ross). Blair Ross plays the stepmother as a cruel woman who has been used and abused throughout her life and is now taking it out on her stepdaughter.  Ross’s energy is so malignant, you feel uneasy from just watching her enter the room and makes Cinderella’s plight identifiable.  Andy Huntington Jones plays Prince Topher.  He is dorky as well and full of self doubt.  The part of the prince has been massively expanded since the 1950s.   Again, this is an obvious demonstration of the idea that you need to know someone before you fall in love and get married.  But the fact that it’s obvious does not take away from the story. Jones is funny and sweet as the prince.  Watching him and Davidson fall in love as Cinderella and her Prince is a really fun part of the show.

It is easy to scoff at Cinderella. It has been done so many times. I’ve seen it done so many times. But in the world of theatre everyone has a message. So many people and so many stories want to be dark and edgy. Sometimes it is just nice to go, with or without a kid, to a production with a protagonist you love, and a cruel villain that you hate, and watch how both literal magic and the magic within the hearts of good people can bring about a happy ending. 

Side note : The Charity Anika’s Pink Closet will remain on-site throughout the run collecting used clothes. For more information about Anika Pink Closet look below at the video and bring you donations to the show.

April 19 – May 1st

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