By Michael Buzzelli
Ella (Callie Brielle McIntyre) sits in the corner yearning for a life beyond the drudgery of her daily life when Prince Topher (Sam Greene) gallops into her neck of the woods seeking a sip of water from her well in “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”
Once the prince’s thirst is slated, his chief advisor, Sebastian (Adam Koda) tries to fend off Crazy Marie (Angela Jade George), but Ella defends Marie insisting she is harmless. The prince takes pity on the pauper and notices Ella’s kindness, but the needs of the realm draw him out of the woods and back to his castle. While he’s on the throne, Sebastian manipulates him into having a masquerade ball to find a potential mate. Sebastian’s distraction is part of his dastardly plan to keep the prince from learning about all of his evil deeds, even though a local rabble-rouser, Jean-Michel (Jackson Miller) is loudly protesting to anyone who will listen.
Meanwhile, Ella’s evil stepmother, known simply as Madame (Marguerite Reed), and her two daughters, Gabrielle (Maya Fullard) and Charlotte (Mary Felix) return to their thatched hut after a long day of shopping. Madame is cruel to her stepdaughter, favoring the daughters from her first marriage. Because she’s covered in soot from cleaning the fireplace, the wicked stepmother mocks her and calls her Cinderella.
When Lord Pinkleton(AJ DePetris) announces the upcoming festivities the townspeople swell with cheer, ignoring Jean-Michele.
Pinkleton proclaims that everyone is invited to the ball.
If you guessed the part where Cinderella’s evil stepmother prevents Cinderella from attending the ball, you’ll probably guess the rest. Something about magic and midnight, a glass slipper, yada, yada, yada.
Side note: I never understood why all of Cinderella’s clothes transform at midnight, except for that single glass slipper. I guess that’s shoe business.
Actually, Oscar Hammerstein, II, and Douglas Carter Beane put a new spin on an old tale. The prince gets a bit more of a back story. He’s more than a knight in shining armor in this musical adaptation.
Tomé Cousin directs a lively version of this age old story, finding fresh and innovative ways to showcase all of his talents. He has expertly picked his cast.
Greene is a dashing and charming prince with a voice big enough for Broadway.
It’s easy to fall in love with McIntyre’s Cinderella. She is a marvelous choice. Her rendition of “In my own little corner” is delightful.
Greene and McIntyre have chemistry together. Their duet, “Ten Minutes Ago” is a showstopper.
The other characters are decidedly over-the-top, but it’s a perfect choice for this bigger-than-life spectacle. Skip “The Nutcracker” and take the kids to see this instead. Hint: “The Nutcracker” will be back next year, but this is lightning in a bottle!
George’s Fairy Godmother, literally and figuratively, shines like a star, aided by a sparkly dress complete with gossamer wings.
Felix’s Charlotte also gets a grand moment singing “Stepsister’s Lament” with the distaff members of the ensemble.
Cousin, who has choreographed shows in the past, turned the choreography over to Eileen Grace Reynolds. She steps up to job with aplomb.
The scenes and props are incredible. Noah Glastier’s cottage in the woods is an efficient set piece that packs up like a suitcase and moves on and off the stage.
Shout out to Damian Dominguez who’s costume design simply amazes. Each costume is fantastic, beautiful dresses at the ball, princely attire for Topher, and even beautifully designed patchwork rags for Crazy Marie. Dominguez stuns the audience with three spectacular costume changes (one for Crazy Marie and two for Cinderella). It’s stagecraft of the highest order. It’s practically magic.
This production is magical. A must see during its very brief run. I could not proclaim it more loudly if I were Lord Pinkleton, the exhausted and very funny town crier.
It seems impossible that a local college production of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” could compare to a big Broadway show, but Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother are all about making the impossible possible. Go out and have a ball!
“Cinderella” runs from December 7 – 11, 2022 in the PNC Theatre inside the Pittsburgh Playhouse, 450 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.