'Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella' review: Modern, sweet
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Warning to the little girls in (almost) all of us. The "Cinderella" enjoying its Broadway premiere starring a terrific Laura Osnes is not your Disney bibbidi-bobbidi "Cinderella." Nor, despite the ungainly new title, "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella," is this a reasonable facsimile of the straight-ahead musical that the great team tossed off in 1957 for Julie Andrews on TV.
This "Cinderella" -- consider yourself again warned -- is not for purists or even the consistently pure of heart. It looks like a fairy tale, but has a jokey new book by Douglas Carter Beane that talks, a bit too often, like a smarty-pants tween. It has more romantic subplots than needed, a redundant banquet in addition to the ball, four merely useful new songs from the R&H trunk and, yes, very nearly, an oppressed-peasant revolt.
And I had a really good time. Directed with a klutzy sweetness by Mark Brokaw, this is a gentle but not skimpy production (by Anna Louizos) with magical transformations not likely to keep anyone up at night wondering how they happened. William Ivey Long's costumes comment on class while looking happy and beautiful. And the cast is lovely with overqualified talent -- including Victoria Clark as a sophisticated fairy godmother (who flies), plus notoriously beloved scene-stealers Harriet Harris (evil stepmother) and Peter Barlett (Machiavellian adviser).
Best of all is Osnes as a Cinderella of intelligence and, in this socially conscious version, with a conscience. Miscast as toughies in "Bonnie & Clyde" and "Grease," Osnes finally has a role that doesn't make her seem just pretty and bland. Here she can play to her strengths, which include an unfussy lyricism and strong, creamy soprano with a gracious sense of future royalty.
Her prince is a bit of a joke, intentionally. Santino Fontana plays him as a doggedly ordinary young fellow who worries about his self-worth. Fontana is a decent singer and we try not to worry when he lifts waltzing Cinderella at the ball. Mostly, we believe he will care when he learns his people are suffering.
It's our girl who educates him, just as she runs out of the ball but forgets to forget her slipper, which means he has to throw another party to lure her back. The message is that people in power should be nicer. And pumpkins can't be carriages forever.
WHAT "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella"
WHERE Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, Manhattan
INFO $45-$147; 212-239-6200; cinderellaonbroadway.com
BOTTOM LINE Klutzy sweet, romantically modern fairy tale