Marvelously inventive costumes, gorgeous vocals, terrific performances, and timely social themes fuel the outstanding national tour of the 2013 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” continuing through Sunday at the Schuster Center courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
Fluidly directed with subtly substantive flair by Mark Brokaw and cleverly reconceived with contemporary flourishes by Douglas Carter Beane (“Xanadu”), “Cinderella,” originally written for television in 1957, is new and improved for all the right reasons. What used to feel merely sweet and safe arises with inspired twists and a refreshingly current vivacity specifically as the musical’s look at finding The One and the townspeople’s quest for revolution respectively conjures the giddy awkwardness of “The Bachelor” and the excitement of Bernie Sanders’ stump speeches. As this romantic tale evolves, Ella (as she’s known here) truly desires to wed royalty, but she wants to change her world in the process. After she appears at the swanky ball (a sumptuous sequence heightened by choreographer Josh Rhodes’ dazzling waltzes) and cheerfully adjusts everyone’s perspective by flipping a cruel game of ridicule (a fascinating addition to this updated version), Ella eventually raises the stakes by returning to face Prince Topher in an attempt to make him understand what is really happening outside the palace walls. Her bold tenacity coupled with a determination to make her dreams come true makes her wonderfully three-dimensional. Thanks to Beane, a comic master bolstered by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s delightfully tuneful foundation, the Cinderella ideal has never been more compelling or progressive than in this production’s captivating depiction of her conviction, strength and kindness.
The very endearing Kaitlyn Davidson, a lovely soprano particularly bringing sweetness and depth to “In My Own Little Corner,” is an absolutely effervescent Ella. Davidson is well-matched by the handsome and charming Andy Huntington Jones as the relatable, contemplative Topher, a sheltered leader who grows in confidence for his own sake and the future of his country. As Ella’s Fairy Godmother Marie, the humorous, enchanting Liz McCartney provides radiant renditions of “Impossible” and the beautifully soaring “There’s Music in You.” Blair Ross is a superbly stern and malicious Madame, Ella’s wicked stepmother. Kimberly Fauré (kindly Gabrielle) and understudy Summer Broyhill (kooky Charlotte) are compatibly goofy as Ella’s spoiled stepsisters. The amiable David Andino is a spirited Jean-Michel, the sensitive rebel inciting revolt. Blake Hammond is fussy and slick as the treacherous Sebastian, Topher’s royal administrator. As the trusty Lord Pinkleton, Chauncey Packer impressively displays operatic heft while proudly proclaiming “The Prince Is Giving a Ball,” an Act 1 ensemble highlight.
Additionally, William Ivey Long’s applause-inducing, Tony Award-winning period costumes are simply stunning, particularly his meticulously crafted outfits for Ella and Marie which transform in full view of the audience. Long’s 330 costumes are notably inspired by French painter Pieter Breughel’s “The Wedding Feast” as well as the French court of Catherine de Medici. Scenic designer Anna Louizos’ colorful storybook sets, Kenneth Posner’s exemplary evocative lighting, Nevin Steinberg’s striking sound design, Paul Huntley’s superb hair and wig design, and music director Valerie Gebert’s excellent orchestra are noteworthy.
Having seen the “Cinderella” revival on Broadway with its original cast and later in its run when Keke Palmer became the first African-American to portray the titular role on the Great White Way, I can say with all honesty that this equally top-notch tour, perfectly timed for Valentine’s Day, is not to be missed.
“Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” continues through Feb. 14 at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Act One: 60 minutes; Act Two: 60 minutes. Tickets are $25-$132. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.
In addition, a special activity for the week of “Cinderella” is Cinderella’s Closet. Please go through your closets and find new or gently-used prom or formal dresses and bring them to Cinderella and help us make dreams come true for teen girls in Dayton. Victoria Theatre Association has partnered with YWCA Dayton and Girls Inc. to collect prom dresses, evening gowns, party dresses, shoes and accessories (shawls, clutches, jewelry and hair pins/clips etc.) for young ladies who do not have a fairy godmother to provide them with a gown of their dreams. The collection area will be open starting two hours prior to show time for each performance.