The first 150 little girls who showed up for the opening of Cinderella got silver tiaras to go with their fluffy dresses. It’s all very adorable but not necessarily promising to a reviewer whose favorite shows are seldom the stuff that brings out the moppets.
But the fairy godmother must have slipped down the Orpheum Theater aisle and wanded me because I found the entire evening absolutely delightful. Like I’d died and gone to Rodgers and Hammerstein heaven.
“Impossible,” the daily’s lead declared, and I second the motion. How can such a familiar all’s well that ends well classic work so well in 2016?
Simply because you get all warm fuzzy stuff that gives it such time-honored legs and just enough clever dialogue and comfortable updating to keep the sentiment from becoming too soggy.
It doesn’t hurt that Joan Squires of Omaha Performing Arts challenges in her President’s note to watch for Ella’s magical transformation from drab to dazzling. So I’m keeping careful watch and it still catches me by surprise. I mean, you’re on the alert when the pumpkin becomes a golden carriage, but it’s still a sneaky gotcha.
I wanted an instant replay in slow motion but settled for being dazzled. Later, when we expect the famous glass slipper to be left behind on the castle staircase, we get another surprise, and still later the plot-crucial footwear takes another twist.
Add the fact that Prince Topher, as played by understudy John Yi, has the comic timing to make the most of Douglas Carter Beane’s new book with fresh dialogue, and you expect the impossible to happen every day. Given that Yi is the second listed understudy it doesn’t seem possible that this cast comes with two preferable princes.
He’s the best of an outstanding collection of vocalists, including Kaitlyn Davidson as Ella of Cinder fame, and Liz McCartney, the bag lady who becomes the fairy godmother and belts such songs as “It’s Possible,” and “There’s Music in You” and the finale while flying the stage on a swing.
But the songs that give you the greatest feeling that you’re reliving that wonderful Rodgers Hammerstein songbook come from Davidson’s “In My Own Little Corner” and her duet with the Prince on “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” (“or are you beautiful because I love you”).
R&H created this treatment for television back in the ‘50s with Julie Andrews and later with Lesley Ann Warren, then again with Brandy in the title role. But there’s nothing dated about this road company version, heavily laced with Broadway cast members and a spunkier yet altruistic Ella.
From Chauncey Packer, as Lord Pinkleton, a lofty title for the town crier, singing “The Prince Is Giving a Ball,” David Andino as the rebellious Jean-Michel and Blair Ross as the wicked stepmother, they deliver both the expected and the unexpected.
Two minor complaints: perhaps an opening night problem that will be remedied saw too much offstage activity exposed, at least to the audience in the front north third of the main floor, and the rather cheesy product placement with several references to Venetian Glass, one of the producing partners.
Cinderella, the Broadway musical, runs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. in downtown Omaha. Tickets are $40 to $125, available at ticketomaha.com or 402.345.0606.