|Kecia Lewis and Paige Faure perform in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s
presented by Broadway Sacramento at the Sacramento Community Center Theater
through Sunday. Carol Rosegg/Courtesy photo
It was like going to a royal wedding at the Sacramento Community Center for the opening of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
There was a royal white Cinderella coach drawn by white horses on which you could have your picture taken, which pulled up in front of the theater. The red carpet featured a parade of pint-sized princesses with tiaras and sparkly shoes. (Left your tiara at home? No problem. You can buy one in the lobby.) In the lobby you could also pose in front of the stairway to the palace.
In the theater itself, the stage was dominated by a magnificent forest of trees which, over the course of the evening, would move in all sorts of wonderful ways to make different configurations.
In the orchestra pit there was a real live orchestra with a real live conductor (Jay Alger). So many musicals these days use synthetic music that the sound of a full orchestra of more than a dozen musicians and 20 real instruments was as refreshing as six months at the seaside.
Then there was the production, which features the most spectacular magical costume change I have ever seen — the sort that makes you want to hit “rewind” so you can see it again because you can’t believe what you just saw (kudos to William Ivey Long, costume designer). And if that wasn’t spectacular enough, or in case you missed it the first time, they’ll do a variation of it in the second act — just as spectacular.
There’s even a real fire-breathing dragon to start things off. No expense has been spared on this production!
This is not Disney’s Cinderella. Many of the traditional elements are there, but this version was written in 1957 as a TV vehicle for Julie Andrews. Then there was a 1965 version with Lesley Ann Warren and a 1997 version with Whitney Houston and Brandy.
The current book by Douglas Carter Beane, is a more politically correct version of the familiar story. Cinderella’s (Audrey Cardwell) main goal in going to the ball is to warn Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones) of the terrible things going on in his country.
While he has been out slaying dragons and fighting giants, he has left the running of the country to his power-mad Lord Chancellor, Sebastian (Branch Woodman), who has brought the citizenry to starvation and eviction from their homes.
Stepsister Gabrielle (Kaitlyn Davidson) is not evil at all, and really wants nothing to do with becoming queen because she is secretly in love with Jean-Michel (David Andino), the social activist who is trying to get his message to the prince. Gabrielle, in fact, helps Cinderella get to the ball so she herself can sneak off to work in a soup kitchen with Jean-Michel.
The Fairy Godmother, Marie (Kecia Lewis), is not the cuddly little grandmother from the Disney film, but an over-the-top vision in purple and sequins (her own transformation is pretty spectacular, too), there to push Ella to take charge, make her own decisions, and fight for her own destiny.
There is still an evil stepmother (Paige Williams), who does make Ella do all the dirty work, but she’s not as mean as we have come to expect.
Stepsister Charlotte, an audience favorite, who tries desperately to fit her foot into the glass slipper, is the comic figure in the show and her “Stepsisters’ Lament” tickles the funny bone.
Anna Louizos’ scenery is sumptuous and the costumes are show-stoppers, especially in the waltz scene where the lighting design of Kenneth Posner made it magical.
It was nice to hear the sound of an old-fashioned musical. Though none of the songs were familiar, they were unmistakably Rodgers and Hammerstein. In fact, one song (“Now is the Time”) sounded like it could have been lifted from “South Pacific,” and I was surprised to read later that it had, in fact, been cut from that show.
This is a production that will entertain all generations in the family, from grandma down to the toddlers.
Spoiler alert: The prince ends up with Cinderella.