Presented by: 5th Avenue Theatre
A lush, colorful, beautifully mounted production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Cinderella, is currently running at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Everything about the production works from the acting, to the singing, to the choreography, to the music, to the sets and costumes, and even to the magic.
Directed by home-grown talent, Brandon Ivie, this slightly updated version of the classic musical has a bit more cheeky Cinderella (lovely and plucky Jennifer Paz) believing in herself and her possibilities, asserting that even a cinder-maid could be worthy of a prince.
Prince Chris ("aw shucks" sweet Brandon O'Neill) is also more of a people's man, kinder, more generally thoughtful, and disdainful of royal custom and perogative. We meet him in disguise, first, out in the marketplace, trying to be a regular guy.
The King (a warm, dryly funny Allen Fitzpatrick) and Queen (motherly Cynthia Jones) clearly love their son, though they're cognizant of important royal traditions. And throughout are also crazy about each other, as a tender duet emphasizes.
Talented veteran of recent Broadway hits, Kendra Kassebaum, newly relocated so we can now call her "local," takes on the role of Fairy Godmother, though aside from one and a half songs doesn't have a huge amount to do. But Godmother does get the bulk of the magic tricks, which are a major part of the fun.
In quick succession, Godmother turns mice into (human, dancing) horses, a pumpkin into an ornate carriage, and poofs Cinderella into a ball gown. Opening night, all the complicated fireworks (there are a LOT of sparks) worked pretty much to perfection.
Local favorite, Greg McCormick Allen, steals the show at the beginning with The Prince Is Giving A Ball, and the most intricate tap-dancing seen on the 5th stage in quite some time. Then, later, the two step-sisters blatantly steal every scene they are in.
Nick Garrison and Sarah Rudinoff are a snort-worthy team, mincing around in horrid costumes, with aggravated attitudes, clearly having the time of their lives on stage. Their one major song (Stepsisters' Lament: "why does a fellow want a girl like her?") is hugely fun, and they get their own encore! They are ably led around by wicked StepMama Suzanne Bouchard.
Music director Bruce Monroe leads a wonderful orchestra, though the singers do tend to slow his pacing down, which he'll hopefully be able to get them to pick up a tad. The set and costumes were mostly borrowed from a previous touring company show that went to Asia, but are opulent and none-the-worse for wear.
Choreography by formerly local Noah Racey is excellent. The townspeople dance vigorously and freely, the court dancers are measured and correct. None of it looks like dance shtick, and all of it feels appropriate to the moment, including Allen's tap-off.
All that praise kind of circumvents the question: A great production for whom? Well, there are a couple of very chaste kisses, no swear words and a very simple story we all know. It's holiday season and it's a great show for the family. However, if you have grumpy adults who don't much care for child-oriented simplicity, you'll probably want to leave them home. Those of us who fell in love with the musical did so as children, most likely. Though this production is as good a production of this script as you may well see, it's still a story reinforcing that girls want to marry princes, and about as deep as the thimble she sews her dress with.
Written by: Miryam Gordon
Added: December 4th 2011