It truly was “A Lovely Night” at the National Theater on Thursday, November 18th, as Cinderella won over not only the prince, but the entire audience. Between the charm of the Rodgers and Hammerstein score, the excellence of the cast, and the updated book for a 21st century audience that makes the Cinderella story more feminist (in the best use of the term), this Cinderella is a joy for any theatre goer.
Originally written as a 90-minute TV musical, starring Julie Andrews, in 1958, there have been multiple TV movies since then, including one starring Brandy and Whitney Huston in 1997. However, Cinderella did not make its Broadway debut until 2013, when, with an updated book by Douglas Carter Beane, it refocused the story on Cinderella’s kindness and inner strength, and how she saves the prince by helping him find his purpose in life. Beane’s book, brought to life under the skilled hand of Director Mark Brokaw, makes Cinderella very relevant to today and the social and political issues (such as inequality) facing society.
In the title role is Kaitlyn Davidson, who brings a warmth and sincerity to the role that makes Cinderella human, rather than too perfect. With her clear and lovely voice, and the obvious joy she has in the role, she makes such favorite songs as “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” and “Ten Minutes Ago” soar and enchant. She is complemented by Andy Huntington Jones’ excellent Prince Topher, whose voice is powerful and rich. Crucial to the success of this updated, more contemporary book, both Davidson and Jones have excellent comic sensibilities that add a lightness and brightness to the romance, helping it to not get bogged down or overly-saccharine.
The supporting cast, including a vibrant Liz McCartney as Marie, the Fairy Godmother (who stops the show with “Impossible”—as well as with her flying) and the hilarious trio of Blair Ross, as Madame the wicked stepmother, and Kimberly Fauré and Aymee Garcia as the wicked stepsisters, are excellent, with some of the funniest moments of the night coming from Fauré’s scenes (especially those scenes with David Andino as Jean-Michele, her boyfriend and the local “firebrand.” They all handle both the humor and the more “preachy” parts with a light and skillful touch.
And how could Cinderella be Cinderella without her beautiful sparkly ball gown? William Ivey Long’s costumes, including Cinderella’s ball gown (revealed in a breathtaking transformation that seems truly magical), along with a beautiful set (especially elaborate for a tour) by Scenic Designer Anna Louizos and expert lighting by Kenneth Posner make Cinderella’s world and kingdom seem truly real–and truly magical. Especially noteworthy is Josh Rhodes’ choreography, especially in the ballroom scene, where the dancers lift and whirl each other around the stage expressing the joy of the scene.
While any audience for Cinderella will almost certainly include a great number of little girls, there is much to please an adult audience: the score is lovely, the cast is first-rate, and this Cinderella – who seems to rescue both the prince and herself – is much more palatable than the traditional damsel in distress.
This beautiful and sumptuous production of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a must see for theatergoers of all ages! It never loses the magic and heart that makes Cinderella such a beloved fairy tale to begin with, and as such, it enchants the adults and children alike.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella plays from November 18-29, 2015 at The National Theatre – 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets go to the box office, or call the box office at (800) 514-3849, or purchase them online.
Blake Hammond on Playing Sebastian in ‘Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ at The National Theatre by Joel Markowitz.