Broadway ‘Cinderella’ cultivates supporting roles

Photo courtesy of Brave Public Relations

In keeping with other shows of the current Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta Series, “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” is scheduled to run Tuesdays through Sundays. Originally intended for film, this musical was rewritten for the stage in 2013, when it first appeared as a Broadway production. The Fox Theatre has hosted this reinterpretation of a classic tale since Nov. 3.

Although there certainly was no shortage of dress-clad girls in the audience, a surprising amount of tiara wearing adults were also enthralled by this week’s “Cinderella” performance. The introduction of Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones, “Bullets Over Broadway”) set the mood for the rest of the play.

Upon entering the stage and slaying a bird-like monster, only to be confronted by a dragon, which was also slain easily by a single arrow from his sling, the prince declared, “I just wish I was doing something more important with my life.”

This production was a comedy suited to a fairy tale ending, not a rendition of the Brothers Grimm’s noir-styled “Cinderella.”

While there were undeniably more comedic elements in this rendition than any of the more conventional Cinderella stories,  or even the Disney version, the musical’s diverse group of spectators easily laughed with the slightest provocation, reacting more emphatically when the play reached one of its comedic gems.

Josh Rhodes’ choreography made excellent use of the limited stage space, with actors bounding across the stage or slowly spinning in tight circles, depending on who else was occupying the stage at that particular moment.

Even the props seemed to be  well-thought-out. For instance, when the Prince’s ball is taking place, the stage is made to look like a grand hall, seeming to stretch farther back than physical space actually allowed. The prop candle holders provide this illusion nicely with shorter ones placed in the back and a comically large pair situated conspicuously in the foreground.

At midnight, as in most, if not all, Cinderella stories, Ella (Kaitlyn Davidson) runs away from the extravagant ball, leaving the prince desperately looking for her. Prince Topher, madly in love with the lady that he had only just met, orders his guards to follow her golden carriage.

They obey, and a lengthy search ensues with the party of searching guards even running into and interacting with Cinderella’s Driver (a transformed raccoon played by Chip Abbott) and Footman (a similarly transfigured fox portrayed energetically by Tanner Ray Wilson), which no one thought was the least bit strange.

As the search continued, Ella was shown transforming back to her original attire from her fabulous ball gown.

In all, it was a rather ineffective and circular search pattern, despite being a stellar dance sequence; the lantern-wielding guards are perhaps worse at their jobs than those in charge of security at Hyrule Castle.

Dancing and props aside, the live music was fitting and well-practiced. Each of the songs in “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” was performed with precision and dedication.

Despite the prince’s first song in the play, in which he claims to sing horribly off-key, Huntington Jones shows remarkable range in his singing voice. Davidson, who is also an engaging performer, complimented whomever her character Ella sang with, be it her love interest, the stepmother she dislikes, her step-sister who might not be evil, or the random people she meets.

Perhaps one of the most notable differences between “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and the countless other renditions of this ancient tale is the inclusion of Jean-Michel (David Andino), a revolutionary who has dedicated his life to the betterment of the kingdom’s downtrodden people. While he is at first portrayed as an oddball who will gladly talk himself hoarse, the character develops throughout the play, eventually becoming a character whom the audience can agree with on more than one point.

While the stepmother (Blair Ross) is still a one-dimensional character who is only seeking her own betterment, her two daughters are shown to be actual people. One of the stepsisters is even rather kind to Ella, especially as the play progresses.

This particular casting for this reinterpretation of Cinderella will continue their performances in Orlando, Floride, on Nov. 10 and has announced their projected schedule through May 1 of next year.

Overall: 4/5