Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella has been adapted three times for television (in 1957 with Julie Andrews, in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren (my personal favorite of the three), and in 1997 with Brandy), yet this new musical on Broadway feels the freshest and most magical of the three adaptations.
With a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, the story follows the fairy tale and the original Rodgers + Hammerstein version closely, yet smartly fleshes out the roles of both Cinderella (a sweet, yet passionate young woman), the Prince (a nerdy, wannabe social reformer), and “Crazy Marie,” a beggar woman who reveals herself to be Ella’s fairy godmother, deadpanning, “you’d be surprised how many beautiful gowns have crazy women in them.” The music is familiar and the audience is transported back to a time full of fairy tales where anything is possible.
However, the sets (the glittery white pumpkin coach and silvery horses) and costumes may be the true stars of the show. William Ivey Long won a Tony this past year for his beautiful costumes and with good reason—Ella’s transformation from a girl living amongst cinder and ashes into the belle of the ball is breathtaking. One of my favorite performances, though, was surprisingly Ann Harada, who plays the stepsister Charlotte and in a choice bit of re-staging sings “The Stepsister’s Lament” with the other rejected women at the ball.
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is the perfect family musical for the young at heart, still believing that “it’s possible…things are happening every day.”