Review: Broadway Across Canada presents Rodgers + Hammerstein’s “Cinderella”
Fairy tales make wonderful bedtime stories, animated cartoons, and even folklore meant to be passed down from generation to generation. But do prince and princess stories belong onstage in a splashy musical platform? It just depends on the core story and the treatment, apparently. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has gone on to smashing success, expanding on the original fairy tale and elevating it to Broadway standard. On the other hand, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, despite its beautiful production values and knockout performances, flails a little bit in its storytelling. The problem is, we all know how simplistic this story is, and the show has tough time stretching out “Girl is mistreated, girl goes to a ball, and the slipper fits” into a two hour production. Luckily, there’s enough going on with the talent and production to make up for the bare bones storytelling.
There are certainly a lot of elements of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella that make the show a pleasure to watch. Unlike a lot of other Broadway fare, Cinderella is self aware enough to have a sense of humour about itself. Because the source material is all too familiar for the crowd, the creators have done their best job to flesh out the story with updated social values, comedic timing, and impressive stage magic. There’s a little bit of vaudeville found in Cinderella’s step family, some Princess Bride inspiration in Prince Topher, and a more well-rounded personality that makes up the title character than we’re typically used to seeing from the house scrubbing damsel in distress.
There are also a few well needed updates to the classic story. One of Cinderella’s typically wicked stepsisters, Gabrielle, has an actual heart in this rendition. Juxtaposed with the other stepsister (the more traditionally mean Charlotte), we have some refreshing depth to this social structure. At various intervals, Cinderella and Gabrielle are able to connect as sisters despite their family’s disgust at the mere thought of such a bond. There’s also a twist with the classic glass slipper scenario, which I won’t mention for spoilers sake. Little moments like this do make Cinderella more interesting to watch.
The performances of the production help raise the show from typical storybook rehash to more upscale fare. As Cinderella, Tatyana Lubov sparkles both literally and figuratively, singing in a beautiful operatic vibrato and sparkling in a crystal-studded gown. Initially, she has all of the poise and humility of the servant Cinderella, then moving over to a kindness-touting rebel who gently wants to change the social dynamics of her kingdom beginning with herself. Her singing is fantastic, her acting is natural, and she matches the role of princess entirely.
Overall, the cast is entirely well picked and suited for Cinderella‘s cornucopia of characters. Hayden Stanes delivers a tongue-in-cheek version of Prince Topher, a bit fumbling at some times and sharp when realizing his Kingdom is being manipulated by some dark forces. Ultimately, his charm is found in his good heart, which is served with a side dish of self-deprecating humour peppered in.
The music of Cinderella is also perfectly matched to the production. Standout numbers such as “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” (sung by Cinderella and Prince Topher) and “The Prince Is Having A Ball” (Lord Pinkleton and Ensemble) match the grace and tone of this regal-themed show. On the flip side, the quirkiness and comedic elements of the show are magnified through a few funnier numbers, such as Charlotte’s “Stepsister’s Lament”, in which the frumpy sibling stomps around in a musical pout.
Cinderella‘s artistic and technical contributions, though, are what really make this show worth the price of admission. The grandiose, colourful costuming is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous array that will impress even those who typically pay no attention to this element of theatre. The colour blocking of the royal court at the Prince’s ball is just gorgeous, complete with matching masquerade facial masks. Cinderella’s several ballgowns are pristine, perfectly suited for the stage in a larger-than-life style.
Perhaps Cinderella is the most perfect depiction of the fairy tale in that it uses a familiar narrative as a canvas to deliver some important messages to younger audience members while providing some visual splendor and charming comedy for the adults. Family musicals are hard to satisfy everyone, but at least in Cinderella there’s a little something for everyone.
Tickets available by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca or by calling 1-855- 985-5000. Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling 1-800- 889-8457.
Main image: Hayden Stanes, Tatyana Lubov and the company of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Credit to all photos: Carol Rosegg.