Impossible things are happening every day! Think you know Cinderella? Think again! An impossibly enchanting, delightfully reimagined retelling of the classic fairytale has made its way to Charm City— as a part of the CareFirst Hippodrome Broadway Series— at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre! Remarkably re-envisioned, this Rogers & Hammerstein classic receives an edge of modernity that flitters with warm humor into our present day reality without ever leaving the realm of the fairytale. With a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, based on the Charles Perrault 17th century version of the tale, Cinderella waltzes into hearts young and old with all of the classic music that everyone loves and remembers as well as exciting new twists and turns to entreat the heart and make the audience fall in love all over again! A delightful evening of enchantment and fairytale magic, Cinderella is fun for the whole family and will leave you with uplifted spirits.
Magic is threaded throughout the production on every level as if it were the golden stitching holding the production elements in place. A whimsically enchanting set, crafted by Scenic Designer Anna Louizos, transports the audience to the fairytale realm of Cinderella inside Prince Topher’s kingdom. While the scenic elements are simplistic, their rustic old-world detail is overflowing with charm. This is particularly true of the marble-white bridge and sweeping grand staircase featured at the banquet and the ball. The woods are mysterious, augmented by the subtle blends of illumination fabricated by Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner, and on the whole, each moment on stage lives and breathes wonder because of Louizos and Posner’s combined efforts.
Serving as the crowning glory, in the literal sense, to some of the most imaginative costumes in creation, Hair and Wig Designer Paul Huntley deserves a nod of praise and approval for his masterful work with the various ‘hairscapes’ crafted for the show. Feathers become the hallmark of Huntley’s design work, as featured at the ball scene. The wigs themselves are quite mesmerizing, with their high stacked styles and almost cartoonish designs. Each one of these zany designs fits the personalities of the characters who don them, making Huntley’s work a critical component in the individualization of the ensemble and principal characters alike.
What takes the breath away in this production are the costumes. Stunning transformations that dazzle and strike with awe, all conceived by Costume Designer William Ivey Long, are the signature show-stopping special effect when it comes to this fairytale. Not once, twice, or even thrice, but four different times does Ella and Marie have utterly magical transformative wardrobe effects that defy description. To talk at further length about these spectacular dresses would spoil the effect. But further praise can be given to Long for his fanciful ball gowns, signature color palettes used for each character, and overall stylistic approach to the show. There is a radiant grandeur that explodes across each character of nobility and import; even the impoverished persons have unique threads that speak to their nuances.
The only thing more breathtaking than the costumes of the show is the spellbinding choreography, crafted originally by Josh Rhodes and adapted to the tour by Choreographer Lee Wilkins. Sprightly, energetic, and full of wonder, Wilkins’ choreography is a driving force that really motivates the show through its blissful bubbles of happiness. Pumped full of joviality and joy, group numbers like “The Prince is Giving a Ball” radiate with resplendence as the ensemble dance their way most heartily through them. Wilkins infuses a variety of styles into his choreography, this includes but is not limited to all flavors of ballet and most readily witnessed by the leaping lords of the court on the hunt for Ella in the woods after the ball. Crisp, clean waltzes and gavottes dominate the ballroom scenes as well, making it the ultimate fairytale dance scene.
With a strong ensemble, guided by Musical Director and Conductor Charlie Reuter, under the Direction of Gina Rattan, the show is most entertaining; it becomes a delightful engagement of the mind, heart, and spirit whether you are just a young theatergoer or one young at heart. Rattan works through the nuances of the new twists found in the tale with a practiced ease, making them feel as if they always belonged to the story of Cinderella but in a revitalized new fashion. This is particularly true of the way step-sister Gabrielle (Mimi Robinson) is portrayed and exceptionally true of the introduction of the character Jean-Michel (Chris Woods.) Both Robinson and Woods have stupendous voices, well suited for the songs they sing, but it’s their awkwardly dorky chemistry that really has the audience screaming in delight when it comes to their interactions.
Charlotte (Joanna Johnson) is more the stereotypical step-sister both rude and ridiculous when it comes to poor Ella. Johnson has quite the handle on her mannerisms and really hams up her solo number, “Stepsister’s Lament” which features her at the epicenter of the ball once it’s collapsed, supported vocally by the ladies of the court. Not quite so tempered as her irascible step-mother, Madame (Sarah Primmer), Johnson finds the subtle humors of her absurd character and plays them at the height of her ability. Primmer, who is haughty and driven with a ruthless confidence, is very much the iconic villainess that the audience expects her to be, particularly during the scene in the cottage in the middle of the second act.
As men of the court and aids to his highness, both Lord Pinkleton (Vincent B. Davis) and Sebastian (Ryan M. Hunt) are possessed of robust and hearty voices, with Davis’ character doing the majority of the singing between them. Hunt’s character relies much more on spoken text to communicate his swarthy and unscrupulous ways, though is not quite as heavy a villain as Madame. Davis, as the herald-style equivalent, showcases his booming sound for both “The Prince is Giving a Ball” and its reprise. There is also a comic subtlety to Davis’ portrayal, which adds hints of humor to his overall existence.
There is honest magic in the character of Marie (Leslie Jackson.) It is difficult to discuss her role in detail without spoiling her secret, so be forewarned that reading further will illuminate fully who Jackson’s character truly is. Wild and zany upon her initial encounter, Jackson tempers this persona with that of her character’s true nature in a divine balance. “Impossible” is the most whimsical number, carried on Jackson’s delectable voice for the entirety of the number. Not only a dazzling display of her vocal prowess, this number possesses a great number of the show’s spectacular enchantments and matched against Jackson’s singing ability, becomes truly the moment of believing in magic. “There’s Music in You” serves as a kind of reprise to this number, again showcasing the astonishing vocal powers of which Jackson is capable.
Ella (Tatyana Lubov) and Topher (Hayden Stanes), better recognized as Cinderella and Prince Charming, are truly the perfect pair in the production. Stanes and Lubov are the iconic romantic couple, their chemistry exploding in magical fireworks from the moment they first meet. Their humorous interactions tickle the spirit and the way their voices twine together for duets like “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” is sublime fairytale glory. Both Stanes and Lubov connect to their characters and each other’s characters with genuine conviviality, drawing the audience deeply into the well-loved story.
Stanes has a miraculous voice, perfectly suited for the role of Prince Topher. “Me, Who A I?” is a warm, rich number which truly highlights his journey of self-discovery. “The Pursuit” is a secondary example of how Stanes wends the path of his character’s journey, using the music his character sings as a navigational beacon to light his way upon the path. Lubov possesses the delicate innocence expected of the titular character but without the naiveté. Her voice is radiant for “In My Own Little Corner” and rises fully for “When You’re Driving Through the Moonlight” and “A Lovely Night.” Sweet, felicitous, and the epitome of a fairytale heroine, Lubov masterfully portrays Ella and has the audience falling in love with her from the moment they first set eyes on her.
Catch your golden pumpkin carriage, don your Venetian glass slippers and hurry to The Hippodrome before midnight strikes and the magic is gone! Don’t miss your chance to see Cinderella in all its finery this November here in Baltimore!
Cinderella pays an enchanted visit to The Hippodrome Theatre in the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center starting November 1 through November 6, 2016— 12 N. Eutaw Street in the Bromo Seltzer Arts District of Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 752-7444 or purchase them online.
To read the enchanted interview with Sarah Primmer, playing Madame, click here!