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Theatre Review: Broadway Across America’s Delightful Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford Theatre Review: Broadway Across America’s Delightful Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CinderellaTatyana Lubov and Hayden Stanes in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, here through November 27. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
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Broadway Across America opened a home-run touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the Ohio Theatre for a week’s run on Tuesday. This stage adaptation of the classic songwriting duo’s sole musical written for television features a very funny new book by Douglas Carter Beane and cracking direction from Gina Rattan based on original direction by Mark Brokaw.

This production is by no means a new take on the time-honored fairy tale but features a handful of interesting, sharp tweaks. Establishing both the titular Ella (Tatyana Lubov) and Prince Topher (Hayden Stanes) as orphans trying to figure out who they are and what purpose they’re going to live for, gives the show an interesting symmetry. Lubov is a delight, riveting attention whenever she appears, selling the character’s charisma buried underneath years of being beaten down by her stepmother (Sarah Primmer) and ultimately irrepressible kindness. Stanes walks an interesting line between lovable doofus and fantasy hero. He slips little hints that his character’s gotten all the “training” to make him a king but the training’s left things out.

Most important, they tear into some of the most beautiful songs of the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon. Hearing their voices together on “Ten Minutes Ago” or “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” is a perfect mix of voices and tones. Lubov’s pure flame of hope as her fairy godmother, brilliantly cast as the town “crazy beggar” and expertly played by Leslie Jackson on “Impossible/It’s Possible” and that hope, given an antic, comic edge with her stepmother and stepsisters on “A Lovely Night” are excellent examples of hooks getting stronger by not being oversold.

Mimi Robinson’s Gabrielle, the stepsister with an arc of redemption, and her beloved, town instigator Jean-Michel (Chris Woods), humanize characters that could have easily been cardboard. Special attention should be paid, as well, to Ryan Hunt’s delightfully sleazy Sebastian and Vincent Davis’ astonishing voice as Lord Pinkerton. The deceptively complex music is given a steady hand under music supervisor Greg Anthon Rassen and the baton of conductor/music director/keyboardist Charlie Reuter. A large part of the dazzle grows out of the choreography by Lee Wilkins adapted from the original by Josh Rhodes.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is that rare kind of family entertainment that lives up to the adage of having “something for everyone” while not selling out its core audience. Even someone like me, who’s faced legitimate complaints about being a curmudgeon who “would rather see something with 20 people in a basement” walked away charmed with those songs ringing in my head. It’s a smoothly humming machine with heart and joy to spare. There aren’t a lot of better entertainment options for families this Thanksgiving season.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella runs through November 27 with shows at 7:30 pm Wednesday, 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm Friday and Saturday, and 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit columbus.broadway.com.

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