After the third or fourth unmemorable song during this both tedious and thrilling retelling of Rodgers and Hammerstein?s Cinderella, I found myself thinking about another song written by that famous duo. With apologies to Mrs. Von Trapp, how do you solve a problem like Cinderella?
For starters, you hire Tony-winning playwright Douglas Carter Beane (Xanadu, The Little Dog Laughed) to refashion the antiquated fairy tale into a social commentary on royalty, wealth, and status. Ditch any preconception that the title heroine is some antifeminist blonde who just cares about getting decked out to meet a royal hottie. In this version, Ella (Laura Osnes, likable if devoid of edge) boasts both brains and reddish-brown hair, and wants to go to the ball to speak to the prince on behalf of the poor people in his kingdom. That prince? Not just some dashing heir. Here, Topher (the utterly charming Santino Fontana) wears an emo-crown and angsts over being at the ball, saying, ”Events like this…I just feel like, what am I doing here?” As for the songs, well, you rely on the good name of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and the few standout songs (”Ten Minutes Ago,” ”Do I Love You Because You?re Beautiful?”) to salvage the so-so score, lifted from a 1957 TV special along with rejected songs from other shows in their catalog.
Luckily, there are some fairy godmothers behind the scenes who redeem this production, including Anna Louizos for her stellar scenic design and William Ivey Long for his gloriously ornate costumes. Long and director Mark Brokaw also stage how-the-heck-did-they-do-that visual tricks that transform Cinderella from rags into red-carpet-ready riches before our eyes. And on stage, several performances sparkle — notably the hilarious Ann Harada (Avenue Q’s original Christmas Eve) as dumpy stepsister Charlotte. And judging from the already massive ticket sales, audiences don’t seem to mind the flaws. Never underestimate the power of a ball gown and glass slippers. B
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)