The production of Cinderella currently playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis is playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s 2013 adaptation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1957 musical, which was originally written for television. According to a press release, Beane went back to the original French version of the story and found additional elements that had been left out in the more familiar story.
In this stage production, you will find that the Prince is an orphan really looking for guidance and friendship, that one of the stepsisters is really not that wicked, that the ball was a diversion created by the Lord Chancellor to keep the Prince from asking too many questions, that the Prince then decided to hold a banquet with the hopes of luring Cinderella back to the castle (because he did not actually have a glass slipper yet).
If you go to see this Cinderella, plan to be entertained by a witty production that has no concern with paying homage to previous versions of the story—including the much-loved 1950 Disney film. I imagine that the little girls dressed in their blue dance gowns and tiaras in the audience on Tuesday night certainly had to be confused by this Cinderella. Imagine their surprise when she first drops her glass slipper and then goes back to pick it up while running from the ball; and then rushing from the palace a second time keeps her shoes on but purposely takes one off and puts it on the step in the clear view of the Prince.
This was the vision of producer Robyn Goodman: a heroine who not only can take care of herself but also is not afraid to take control of a situation. This thoroughly modern Cinderella is also capable of creating networking opportunities for the townspeople and the Prince, and fighting against injustices; she does this all out of kindness and a sense of right.
Paige Faure‘s portrayal of Cinderella is fine, but not stellar. It might be that it is just not a particularly complling acting challenge for a successful actress today to portray an independent yet compassionate young woman. On the other hand, I felt that Andy Huntington Jones nailed the role of Topher: the prince who is trying to find his way in the world despite the protection of wealth and status. The opening act finds Topher nonchalantly slaying dragons while questioning whether that’s all there is to being king.
The choreography by Josh Rhodes seemed choppy at times rather than—well, choreographed. The musical numbers borrowed very little from earlier versions of Cinderella. Indeed, discarded lyrics from other Rodgers and Hammerstein productions were taken and adapted to fit this story.
I’m not sure whether the impressive on-stage transformations of Cinderella were the work of costume designer William Ivey Long or the brainchild of director Mark Brokaw. One thing I know for sure: whenever the fairy godmother is on stage, do not take your eyes off Cinderella. Twice during this production Cinderella magically transforms herself from the plain to the extraordinary and I completely missed both. Even the second time, when I knew it was coming, Faure as Cinderella created a distraction just long enough for the transformation to take place without notice. Call it slight of hand, amazing trickery, clever costume design, or great acting—I credit it to fairy dust and magic words. The audience clearly was as amazed as I was, and showed it with their applause.
While there were some entertaining aspects to this show, I did not find the enchantment that I was looking for.