The Broadway Theatre, New York City
If you have a little kid at home between the ages of a seven-year-old who can sit through a show and a fantasy-prone twelve-year-old, Cinderella might be the ticket to buy if you’re going for them. With a mediocre score from the legendary team of Rogers & Hammerstein and a contemporary book by Douglas Carter Beane, this musical is ideal for kids and perfectly tolerable for adults.
Though this production plods along with the story that everybody knows, there are moments of theatrical magic that might be lost on one not jumping to suspend disbelief, but will likely dazzle those who still think their uncle can pull a quarter out of his ear. Beane's book seems geared at amusing the more mature audience members, but often tries too hard to be modern-day in its humor, detracting from the story while only paying off in moderate laughter.
Laura Osnes is lithe, charming, and perfectly genuine as the fabled Cinderella, managing to portray this absurdly good person without turning into a cartoon character devoid of humanity. Santino Fontana shares a similar success as Topher, our story's prince, maintaining heartfelt sincerity while summoning comic moments, which are uncommon for royalty of this genre. Both sing with a simple beauty fitting for a fairy tale. As the now not-so-wicked stepsisters, Ann Harada lands some funny moments as Charlotte and Marla Mindelle makes for a sweet confidant to Cinderella, while Greg Hildreth struggles to find a place and a reason for being Beane’s most confused addition, the firebrand Jean-Michel.
Director Mark Brokaw plays it towards the kiddies, employing stuffed animal hand puppets to keep it cute and fluffy, but gears his actors' performances towards the adults, working to pull as much dimension as the story will allow, while aiming to somewhat nuance characters who are normally viewed in black and white. Beane feels like a misfit with his adaptation of the book, writing for one musical while everyone else seems to be performing in another. His contributions are random, including the reform activist stereotype of Jean-Michel, and pop out enough to be glaringly noticed but are weakly developed to the point of being almost apologetic. Like a party crasher who has the guts to make a loud and intrusive entrance but doesn’t stick around long enough to truly alter the tone of the scene, it might have been better if he had knocked on someone else’s door.
While either a truer-to-the-original version or more committed revised exploration may have proved more enjoyable, this manifestation is wholly passable and fulfills most of the expectations that one could assume of it. Professionally executed and efficiently performed, it makes for some very safe and family-friendly entertainment.