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Theater review by Adam Feldman. Broadway Theatre. Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Book by Douglas Carter Beane. Dir. Mark Brokaw. With Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana. 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.
Those who attend Broadway’s Cinderella expecting a retread of the Disney movie, or the 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein TV movie (on which the show is actually based), are in for a few big surprises. This new Cinderella is still built around the lush score for which the R&H version is fondly remembered, including the swoony waltz “Ten Minutes Ago” and the plaintive ballad “In My Own Little Corner.” But Hammerstein’s original book—which seemed as creaky as an old rocking chair in New York City Opera’s 2005 attempt to stage it—has been replaced with a cheeky new script by wit-for-hire Douglas Carter Beane. This is not a matter of tweaks; Beane has rewritten the whole yarn of ball, with an ear toward modern attitudes and attitude. The resulting confection of class and sass suggests a red-velvet cake nested in cotton candy.
Cinderella has gained viability but lost much of its fairy-tale heart in the course of its extreme makeover; our heroine’s cheeks betray no hint of ash, her stepsisters are no longer wicked, and all is quickly forgiven and forgotten. (A subplot about democracy raises social questions and lowers emotional stakes.) But the show’s young stars are hugely appealing: Laura Osnes beams with spunky virtue as Cinderella, and Santino Fontana, with his slightly skewed smile, is the rare Prince Charming with genuine charm. Mark Brokaw’s deluxe supporting cast includes Victoria Clark, Ann Harada, Marla Mindelle, and matching villains Harriet Harris and Peter Bartlett; among Cinderella’s other assets are a generous orchestra, vigorous choreography (by Josh Rhodes) and a gorgeous parade of costumes (by William Ivey Long). If this production is no more than a lavish escapist family entertainment, it’s no less than that either. Hop the pumpkin carriage, enjoy the ride, and don’t expect the magic to linger.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam