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Cinderella

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Cheap tickets showed up on TDF, and of course we had to go.  We lucked out, too, with orchestra seats--extreme left of house, with a clear view of the Raccoon climbing up into the trees and the 4 white mice/horses being readied to trundle onto the stage, but we were far enough up front to see everybody's expression, so it worked out very well, I thought.  No fewer than three understudies--either there's a bug going through the cast, or the Prince, Jean-Michel, and one of the Woodland Creatures (the Raccoon, I think), thought, hey, it's Wednesday, let's take the night off.  My guess is bug:  the Fairy Godmother sounded a little hoarse and Cinderella had a bit of a burr to her voice.

Ah, the glories of live theater.

I loved a lot of things about this production.  I loved the songs (of course--what's not to love?).  They were all there, plus a few that had been cut out of South Pacific way back in the day and hung around in the Rogers and Hammerstein songbook until pressed into service here.  Ellen said that some of the harmonies were thinner and arrangements poppier than in 1965, which may very well be the case--my ear isn't that finely tuned.  Also, I was too busy laughing (with delight, I promise) as Rebecca Luker, as the Fairy Godmother in a lavender-mauve number with panniers AND swags AND pleats AND sparkles AND bell sleeves AND bows AND a train AND TWIRLY SILVER HORNS SPROUTING OUT OF HER HEAD, OMG swung above the stage singing her heart out.  I loved the costumes, which were pretty much uniformly over the top, except, of course, for Cinderella's tasteful and relatively simple (if very glittery) ball gown and banquet dress (yes, there is a banquet as well as a ball in this one.  What?  They had to stretch the plot to two hours running time, didn't they?)  I liked Laura Osnes as Cinderella.  She radiates kindness (which is harder to play than niceness) and sincerity, giving the proceedings a heart they otherwise lacked.  Oh, the Prince (played, tonight, by the understudy Andy Jones) was warm and sweet and innocent, and I liked him, too.  But a lot of the other actors seemed to be in another, worldlier, play, full of modern catch-phrases and slightly smarmy pronouncements about following your dream and believing in yourself and being what you want to be that set my teeth ever-so-slightly on edge.

Which was what I didn't like about the production.  In trying to update Cinderella, to make it socially conscious, Douglas Carter Beane (who wrote The Nance, which we saw in August), threw in every single pious cliche he could think of.  Some of them worked pretty well.  I liked the very different thing he did with the slipper schtick (which I don't want to ruin for you, though The New York Times review did), and it was nice that one of the Wicked Stepsisters was kind of a nice girl with dreams of her own (and spectacles).  But the politics (yes, this is a Cinderella with a political agenda--impeccably democratic, I need hardly say) were, um, naive. And the sexual politics were not nearly as enlightened as the play clearly thought they were.  Let's just say that when the good stepsister and Cinderella have their moment of reconciliation and communion, it's over the fact the guys they're in love with, and that the Fairy Godmother spends a lot of time giving poor Cindy pep talks about how she is too worthy of the Prince's love, and leave it at that, shall we?

And yet, and yet.  No matter how it's been reimagined, rejiggered, and inflated, Cinderella remains an essentially good-hearted play.  I shook my head a fair amount, but I teared up over "Ten Minutes Ago I Met You" (that may be because a friend sang it at our wedding, but still) and "In My Own Little Corner" (which, in 1965, was The Story Of My Life, you betcha).  And I did laugh with delight at Cinderella's stage-magic transformations from ragamuffin into Disney Princess, and "The Stepsister's Lament" and the ball scene and the Fox and the Raccoon (who replaced the less-cute Rats as Coachman and Footman) leading the seeking Prince a merry chase through the woods.  I even liked the social reformer and firebrand Jean-Michel, who served as the good stepsister's slightly nerdy love interest.

And the legion of little girls in floofy dresses, with sparkly tiaras a little askew and stars in their eyes?  I loved them a lot--especially the one who wore her tiara with a black skirt and a little leather jacket.

ETA:  I owe you guys a review of The Glass Menagerie.  I've got it about half written, in a notebook, but I'm having a hard time sorting out my reactions to it.  A thorny play, Glass Menagerie, and an interesting production.  I'll deliver eventually, I promise.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
birdhousefrog
Sep. 26th, 2013 11:35 am (UTC)
Miss E's middle school did Cinderella last year and that was just about her first experience of live theater. It was a cute production. When I saw it was back on stage here, I was tempted to get tickets for us. But the trek to the big city is still a bit scary for us. DC I can do. NYC from out the east end? Not yet. I might as well be a million miles away as I watch the Sound. Great writeup, thanks.

Oz
Nancy Werlin
Sep. 26th, 2013 12:00 pm (UTC)
Nothing can keep me from loving this musical. So many good memories from watching the Leslie Ann Warren version every single bingle year on TV when I was a kid! And oh, YES, re "My Own Little Corner"! So many great songs.
negothick
Sep. 27th, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
Seeing Glass Menagerie and Cinderella at the same time must have set all sorts of wind chimes knocking together in strange resonance. Laura could be Cinderella, waiting to be recognized as Special, and Amanda as a Wicked (Step)mother, flirting with the Gentleman Caller. But in this universe, there is no rescue.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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