Review of Cinderella by Olivia Tobin

CIN_Logo_500x500_RGB-2Entertaining, but Not Enchanting by Olivia Tobin, Student Critic
As I walked into the theatre for the Saturday matinee of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, my
standards were set incredibly high, and so were the standards of the myriad of little girls who were
anxiously awaiting seeing their idol on the stage in their Cinderella costumes and tiaras. Cinderella is a
timeless story, and though Rodgers and Hammerstein’s interpretation of it is vastly different from the
Disney version, there are certain expectations that are set for a story that has been loved and will be loved
for generations; the magical transformation of Cinderella, the glass slipper, and the happily-ever-after
ending are all essential aspects of the Cinderella story, and all of those magical moments occurred in the
production. However, this show did not meet fully those expectations, and I imagine that those hopeful
little girls left the theatre with the same disappointment and feeling of dissatisfaction that I did.
From the beginning, this production left an awkward taste in my mouth. Though the overture was
sweeping and breathtaking, and conductor Charlie Reuter should be commended for that, the opening
scene was simply unnecessary. Tatyana Lubov (Ella) left something to be desired with her acting skills
throughout the show, but she did her best to work with her awkward collection of rocks that is supposed
to set the tone for the show as the opener. Although director Gina Rattan may have had some deeper
meaning that was supposed to be portrayed during this scene, any purpose in the scene’s inclusion seemed
to be lost.
The two most impactful actors on the stage were definitely Topher (Hayden Stanes) and Marie, also
known as the Fairy Godmother, (Leslie Jackson); both actors delivered absolutely incredible vocals, and it
was clear from their energy and passion on the stage that they had truly embodied their roles and had fully
adopted the personalities of Prince Topher and Marie. Stanes’ acting skills were a cut above the entire
cast’s; Topher’s heated exchange with Sebastian (Ryan M. Hunt) earned some of the most fervent
applause that the audience gave throughout the entire show. His passion and range of emotion were
simply amazing, and he more than made up for the rather bland Ella. Though Ella’s voice was very clear
and pretty, and her harmonies with both Topher and Marie were flawless, Ella seemed less passionate and
dynamic than the other actors onstage; though Ella is written as a very one-note character, there is more
that can be done to make her as empowering and genuine as she is supposed to be, and Lubov fell slightly
flat on delivering the strong idol little girls came to see. Additionally, Madame (Sarah Primmer) and the
two stepsisters, Charlotte (Joanna Johnson) and Gabrielle (Mimi Robinson) were not quite the foul foils to
Cinderella’s kindness that they should have been; they were significantly less cruel to Cinderella than one
expects of them and it was absolutely a disappointment. However, it must be noted that the ensemble’s
acting in this production was very impressive; though they were not always featured, every ensemble
member was constantly acting, and acting well, even when they were in the background of scenes. Having
a strong ensemble is crucial to any show, and the ensemble of this production was what made the acting
in the production, on the whole, quite impressive.
Though the main focus of the show for the viewer is the actors on stage, there were many details in the
show that led to it being cohesive and stunning. The set pieces were well designed, well moved, and well
placed, thanks to the efforts of scenic designer Anna Louizos and stage manager Kathryn R. Herman. The
set pieces seemed to almost be in perpetual motion in order to show the progression of time and to keep
up with the perpetual motion of the characters, and the movement of elaborate set pieces on and off the
stage occurred flawlessly. The most impressive set piece and stage design happened with the reveal of
Cinderella’s golden carriage; with a bang and a flash of light (coordinated seamlessly by lighting designer
Kenneth Posner and sound designer Nevin Steinberg) the grandiose, illuminated, gilded carriage suddenly
appears on the stage, and the applause and audible gasp from the audience that accompanied its arrival
speaks volume of its impact. The costumes were equally as sensational; it is clear to any seasoned
theatre-goer that the dazzling confection that is Cinderella’s white ball gown, along with the rest of the
stunning costumes, is the work of costuming genius William Ivey Long. It is clear that no detail was
passed over by Ivey Long when he designed these costumes; the clothing of every single character was
detail-oriented, appropriate for the scene in which it was worn, and overall wonderful to behold. The
costume changes alone would have been enough to astonish the audience; if I had blinked during “It’s
Possible”, I would have missed Cinderella’s faster-than-light onstage transition from beggar to princess.
And the transition back was equally as seamless; the clever disposal of Cinderella’s sparkling cape into
the fireplace as Madame returned from Prince Topher’s ball, which Cinderella attended as the
unrecognizable beauty she was, was incredibly well-coordinated, as were all of the other scenic, lighting,
sound, and costume aspects of the show.
In the end, this production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was typical; though there were
physical elements of the show that were breathtaking, and there were modern additions to the dialogue
that gained a few laughs from the audience, the storyline has been done so many times, and was done
again this time in the same average way that they usually are, that I wish there were bigger twists and
more excitement throughout the show. The classically overdone theme of kindness was once again too
forced (and when the tagline of a show is “Kind is the New Pretty”, it does not help that the actress
playing Cinderella is incredibly beautiful), and its insincerity drew away from the production’s overall
effect. The modern additions also took away from the immersive experience that theatre is supposed to be
by drawing the viewer back to reality with its jabs at the government and politicians. This production on
the whole ended up being incredibly average, and it could have been redeeming if it was catered toward
children instead of a theatre aficionado. Unfortunately, the plot is too different from the Disney version to
be appealing for small children (and it is definitely doubly confusing and disappointing for them when
Cinderella is, at one point, wearing a gown that is uncanny to that of Belle’s from Beauty and the Beast),
and the Cinderella of this production was not quite the empowered and compassionate role model that the
little girls in tiaras came to be dazzled by. In the end, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is now a
tired and overdone musical, and that was more than clear in this production.

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