REVIEW: “Cinderella” has updated story, humor and magic

cinderella

The “Cinderella” Broadway company. Photo by Carol Rosegg.


By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News

“It’s really an enchanting experience,” says Paige Faure, the actress playing the title role in the new national tour of “Cinderella.” Wearing a plain red sheath dress, boots and her brown curly hair pulled off her face, it’s easy to see how she can play a princess every night.

The day before the tour opened at the Providence Performing Arts Center, Faure and her co-star, Andy Jones (Prince Topher) sat in their dressing rooms chatting about the play.

“The magic in this show feels so real both onstage and off,” she says.

The show comes direct from Broadway, where Faure played Ella this summer. Jones previously understudied the role of the prince.

“This is a story that we have known for centuries, it’s the classic rags to riches story,” says Jones, a tall baritone with a warm disposition and a friendly face.

It’s easy to imagine the pair falling in love underneath the lights each night as they sing what Jones describes as Rogers and Hammerstein’s “beautiful, luscious score.”cinderella

“Cinderella” was originally written as a television movie, broadcast live on CBS in 1957 with Julie Andrews in the leading role. It was subsequently remade for television twice, and opened on Broadway in 2013.

The updated stage show featured a new script by Douglas Carter Beane, and it’s infused with modern humor. It also has new twists, and a sub-plot that centers on politics and social issues.

“It’s a story that we all know but there are surprises still,” said Jones. (Pictured at right: Paige Faure and Andy Jones with the “glass” slippers.”)

The show takes place on a magnificent set by Anna Louizos that takes the audience from the woods, to Cinderella’s home, to the palace and everywhere in between. Of course, a fairy tale wouldn’t be complete without a hefty dose of magic, and the creators pull off everything from flying fairy godmothers to tattered dresses that transform into stunning ball gowns in the blink of an eye.

The iconic, Tony Award-winning costumes were designed by William Ivey Long.

“It’s heavy,” says Faure of the sparkling white gown she wears to the ball at the end of the act one. “But I truly feel like a princess in these costumes.”

She looks and sounds like one, too. Faure’s clear mezzo soprano and effervescent speaking voice make for a perfect Cinderella. Matched with Jones’ luscious baritone, they’re a royal pair.

Beth Glover is a wickedly-delightful Madame, Cinderella’s stepmother, and Ashley Park and Aymee Garcia play the step-sisters. Typically “wicked,” only Garcia’s character is mean in this updated version, while Park plays the kind-hearted sister who ultimately helps Cinderella go to the banquet.

Yes, a banquet in addition to the ball, because in this version – spoiler alert! – Cinderella doesn’t accidentally leave her glass slipper behind after leaving the ball. Instead, she returns to the palace for the banquet to consciously leave her shoe behind.

It’s also at that banquet that Ella informs Prince Topher of her friend, Jean Michel’s (David Andino), and his ideas for more equality in the kingdom. This is where the sub-plot of social and political justice comes in, paving the way nicely for a didactic ending.

Still, even with the plot twists, additions and changes, the show at its core is still the fairy tale we all know and love. Add in the glitz and spectacle of Broadway, and you’ve got a show that will entertain the whole family.

“Of course [parents] bring the kids thinking, ‘Oh, this is a good outing for them,’” says Faure, “But they leave at the end of the night and they say, ‘Wow I was really touched!’”

Faure calls it a “great date night” that’s “funny, quippy, witty, heartfelt and authentic.”

She’s right. It is witty, and the modern humor that’s been added to the show really makes it quite fun.

“It has everything that you want Cinderella to have,” says Faure. “We’ve got the glass slippers, we have this beautiful Rogers and Hammerstein score that will lift you out of your seat, but we also have exciting twists and turns – the end of the first act will leave you wanting more.”

It’s at the end of the first act that Cinderella rushes down the palace stairs, leaves behind a glass slipper and quickly runs to retrieve it before fleeing from the prince. Gasps go up from the crowd and the prince looks alarmed and befuddled. I personally spent all of intermission wondering how on earth the story could go forward. But it did, and it all ends happily ever after.

The fairy tale ending would not be possible without Cinderella’s fairy godmother Marie (Kecia Lewis) and those iconic glass slippers she gives Ella.

“These shoes…definitely look like glass. They are not glass because that would be very hard to dance in,” laughs Faure, showing off the clear plastic pumps covered in crystals. “They’re covered in Swarovski crystals and underneath the theater lights they will blind you! They are quite sparkly.”

And they do dazzle and shine in the theater lights, just as the entire production does.

Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” runs now through October 18 at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For information, show times and tickets, click here.

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Kim Kalunian

An award-winning journalist and theater critic – and a performer at heart. Kim covers everything from politics and breaking news to food and theater. Kim is the weekday afternoon news anchor on WPRO.