Review: National Tour of 'Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella'

Nancy Sasso Janis

OnStage Connecticut Critic / Connecticut Critics Circle

“The world is full of zanies and fools, who don't believe in sensible rules, and won't believe what sensible people say. And because such daft and dewy-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes, impossible things are happening every day.” 

Waterbury, CT - The touring company of ‘Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ that graced the stage of Waterbury’s regal Palace Theater marks the midway point of the 2016-2017 Webster Broadway Series. It is the work of Work Light Productions with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and a new book by Douglas Carter Beane from the original book by Mr. Hammerstein. This tour direction is by Connecticut native Gina Rattan, who is currently directing ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at Pace University and has served as associate director for ‘Matilda The Musical’ on Broadway and ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Peter Pan’ Live on NBC. Tour orchestrations are by Bill Elliott. 

The notes of the overture brought back memories of the music from the classic television special that I watched repeatedly as a child and the music held up to the test of time for me. The first incarnation starred Julie Andrews, and the one I know by heart is the 1965 remake starring 18-year-old Lesley Ann Warren and ‘General Hospital’ star Stuart Damon. Four additional songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalogue were added to the 2013 Broadway production.

In the tour, Tatyana Lubov plays the title role with grace and pluck; while “Ella” sounded just fine in the first act, her voice was able to shine for the numbers after intermission. Hayden Stanes played the handsome prince “Topher” (short for “Christopher”) and he sounded best when he was singing with his love. Vincent B. Davis played his shady guardian Lord Pinkleton and Chris Woods took on the role of a young and unconfident revolutionary Jean-Michel 

Sarah Primmer was the vile stepmother called Madame. Joanna Johnson was a riot in the role of stepsister Charlotte (accent on the last syllable) that was originated on Broadway by Ann Harada (‘Avenue Q.’) Mimi Robinson was sincere as the taller stepsister Gabrielle. Ryan M. Hunt stood out as the royal town cryer Sebastian. Brian Liebson was the magical footman and Arnie Rodriguez was the coach driver. Chloe Fox was a Lady of Ridicule in a scene that allowed Ella to demonstrate her innate kindness. Members of the ensemble served as puppeteers for woodland creatures, knights, townspeople, lords and ladies of the court and peasants. 

Leslie Jackson started out as a peasant named “Crazy” Marie and made a beautiful transformation into the fairy godmother. And speaking of transformations, the costumes designed by William Ivey Long make mind-boggling onstage changes that truly look like they could have been done by magic. Just don’t blink or you might miss one of them. 

Beautiful wig and hair design was done by Paul Huntley. Choreography by Lee Wilkins based on the original choreography by Josh Rhodes was well-done and I was impressed with all of the one-armed lifts executed by the male dancers in the ballroom scene. The orchestra sounded great under the direction of Charlie Reuter. 

I enjoyed this fresh look at the classic tale that retained the feel of the television special. Little bits of comedy made it feel a little more contemporary. The scenic design by Anna Louizos was both lovely and functional, including that necessary white staircase; the look of the entire production overall was quite beautiful, mostly because of those amazing costumes. 

‘Cinderella’ runs through Feb. 26 at the Palace. STUDENT RUSH! Tickets in the mid mezz are available for any performance for ONLY $35. To ensure a safe and positive experience for all patrons, the Palace Theater has new protocols: All bags will be checked and all patrons will be subject to security wanding upon arrival.