Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella Review: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Break It
For those of you who haven’t seen all of the billboards around town for the last month, the national touring company of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is currently in the middle of its one-week run at the Fabulous Fox. As much as I was looking forward to this show, and believe me, I was, I have to admit that I left the theatre shaking my head.
A little background first, so you know where I’m coming from. You guys, I’m a Cinderella junkie from way back. Not just this musical or the animated Disney cartoon that we’re all familiar with. I mean any Cinderella. I adored Ever After. I own the 2015 version of Cinderella (the character was insipid, but the costumes were stunning). I can sing along with the obscure-ish versions like The Glass Slipper and The Slipper and the Rose, and I have opinions about Lesley Ann Warren versus Brandy. All of this to say, I did not come to this show with fresh eyes, but I came ready to love it.
You guys, I did not love it.
Nothing at all against the cast. They certainly did what they could with the show they were given. And the onstage quick-changes were wonderful (especially the ballgown-to-rags that seemed to just disappear into thin air). The book itself, though…
This updated version was written by Douglas Carter Beane, who seems to have taken elements from every other version of the story that you’ve ever seen and smushed them all together without bothering to understand how those elements worked. In this new version, Prince Topher has been orphaned (RIP Max and Connie*) and comes back from boarding school totally clueless as to how his Evil Vizier Prime Minister has been abusing the people in his absence (hello, Ella Enchanted). We have one sympathetic stepsister (Ever After) who is secretly in love with someone below her station (Cinderella II: Dreams Come True). Said secret boyfriend is constantly trying to enlighten both the prince and the upper class to the plight of the peasants, but is largely ignored (another callback to Ella Enchanted, though I started calling him “Ineffectual Enjolras” about halfway through the show).
All of these elements worked in their own stories, but together they’re just painfully disjointed and even nonsensical. Why in the name of sanity would you have Cinderella lose her slipper on the steps of the palace, only to run back and grab it, then literally hand it to the prince at the banquet he holds in order to see her again? Beane seems to delight in breaking tropes purely for the sake of breaking them and with no thought to coherent storytelling.
The spectacle of the show is lovely and the music is charming and well-executed, especially the songs left intact from previous versions. For costume nerds, the quick-changes alone are worth the price of admission. For me, though, I think I’ll be digging back in my DVD collection to let the late, great Whitney Houston tell me why it’s possible for a plain, yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage.
You can pick up tickets for an Atlanta show from now through May 10! They can be purchased through the FOX Theatre Box Office or online at www.ticketmaster.com!
* HRM King Maximillian Godfrey Ladislaus Leopold Sydney Frederick John and HRM Queen Constantina Charlotte Ermintrude Guinevere Maisie Marguerite Anne. Know your royalty, folks.
Photo Credit: Paige Faure & Andy Jones in the National Tour of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Photo © Carol Rosegg.