Theater Review: Cinderella

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"Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella" at TPAC, Oct. 20 -25 is a fantastic musical theater experience for everyone in your family.

TPAC’s Broadway Series presents:
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Oct. 20 – 25; All ages)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 – $75

A royal treat awaits your family this week with the splendid production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and it’s a show both you and your kids are going to love!

Keep in mind this is the Rodgers and Hammerstein version — not Disney’s — and it’s great fun to experience the lush music of these two musical theater masterminds 58 years after its first performance. Richard Rodgers wrote the music and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the book and lyrics for Cinderella, and it’s the only musical by the duo ever written for television — it first broadcast live in 1957 as a showpiece for the great Julie Andrews.

The music still resonates decades later, and the story has gotten a little bit of an upgrade with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane for the 2013 revival on Broadway. The classic story remains intact but has a more contemporary feel with funny dialogue and jokes that resonate with today’s kids that are also highly entertaining for adults in the audience. I love the fresh, fun approach to the story, and the entire super-talented cast delightfully brings these beloved fairy tale characters to vibrant life.

Kaitlyn Davidson stars as Ella, and she’s no stranger to the show or to Broadway. She was in the Broadway revival of Cinderella as well as the original cast of Nice Work if You Can Get It. She’s spent the past year on this current Cinderella tour playing step sister Gabrielle, and just recently stepped into the glass slippers taking over the leading role — in fact, the Nashville stop of the tour is the second city where Davidson’s performing the lead (the tour hit Memphis en route to Music City).

Davidson brings so much purity of heart to Ella along with breathtaking elegance. Her powerful stage presence is remarkable, and she sings like a princess on memorable numbers, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “A Lovely Night.” Davidson genuinely expresses the underlying theme to the story, and it’s one that’s great for kids: anything is possible if you you believe in yourself … and you have to put some investment into your dreams.

Liz McCartney brings a magical performance of Marie/Fairy Godmother and she delivers the goods with her standout performance of “There’s Music in You” in Act II.  One of the things that’s so wonderful about Beane’s new book is the way several of the supporting characters are more fleshed out and given a bit more dimension. This is quite evident with Madame, Gabrielle and Charlotte, Cinderella’s step mother and step sisters played by Blair Ross, Kimberly Faure and Aymee Garcia, respectively. Each actress makes her mark on stage — Garcia’s rendition of “Stepsister’s Lament” is impeccable — and each gives their characters, well, quite a bit of character without being too over-the-top cartoon-like.

Of course, no Cinderella story is complete without her Prince Charming, and in this version of the story his name is Prince Topher (short for Christopher), and the dapper Andy Huntington Jones plays the young royal with lots of charm and style whether he’s conquering an overgrown preying mantis or slaying a dragon … or wooing the girl of his dreams.

Anna Louizos’ lavish set design perfectly captures the fairy tale element in every scene as set pieces seamlessly change throughout the show, and William Ivey Long’s costumes add amazing splashes of color and magic as well. Kids will be in awe at the magical wardrobe transformations that take place for both Marie and Ella. It’s stunning fairy tale magic at its best!

Cinderella is a surefire musical theater treat for your entire family, and if you’ve yet to introduce your youngsters to the art of live theater, this is the perfect show to do so.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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