You might think that just because I choose to assert my royal title of Princess, that I might be predisposed to frilly, fluffy, romantic fairytales. If you thought that though, you’d be mostly wrong. I’m nearly immune (nearly) to the ooh and aahh of that whole scene, so it takes me a bit to get excited for a show of such a nature. But, there’s just something about being surrounded by little (and some older) girls (women) in tiaras and poofy dresses, that makes that surrender to the floofy side, far easier and to get primed for the dreamy destiny of one of our REAL favorite Princess’ rise to royalty. Broadway San Jose has brought us Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and despite a bit of up hill skepticism initially, it’s all the sparkle and harmonious pleasantness, you’d expect from this musical love story, and I totally bought it.
The storyline is a lot kinder (and funnier) than the Perrault, Basile and Grimm fairytales or even the Disney version, which I quite appreciated. I don’t have kids of my own (we don’t count my 2, three-legged cats in this instance as kids), but I do sometimes wonder the “example” we set in our choices of entertainment. I’ve seen some plays (and films) billed very much for children that astound me with their revenge and an eye for an eye plots. Even when clearly set in fantasy, if you feel the need to have that reality check conversation afterwards, it’s certainly a consideration for whether it’s a good family fit. Aside from off stage cruelty to mythical creatures (too much Harry Potter I guess for me to be 100% okay with giant bugs or dragons getting slayed) and some possibly politically incorrect reference to a “crazy lady” there’s a wholesome, good moral fiber to this piece, which is refreshing without feeling overly preachy or even forced and unrealistic.
There’s a small political component that seemed a bit out-of-place at first, but served as more of a vehicle for one of my favorite characters (Jean-Michel) than a real distraction from the traditional storyline. Modern turns of phrase or modern deliveries of lines inserted here and there for comic effect, made it feel more grounded in reality (and “possibility”) while still capitalizing on all the magical impossibility. This really nice contemporary touch made it even more enjoyable and I think accessible for the younger generation in the audience. This is as good a time as any to mention that thanks to Marie, the Fairy Godmother, I’ll be adopting and probably abusing the phrase “dizzy in the noodle” from here on out, so y’all just are going to bear with me on that front.
The sound balance got off to a tad of a bumpy start, but by the middle of Act 1 we were doing great and the orchestra was beautiful. While the music isn’t the hummable masterpieces of this duo’s Sound of Music or the King and I, it is pleasing to the ear and across the board well sung. The lyrics are clever, the voices lovely, and paired with awesome stage craft/special effects we easily are sucked into the visual when on the rare occasion the audio isn’t “enough” on its own to command our full attention.
Our cast is fresh and talented, clearly making a solid script and score soar miles above its potential. (Cinder)Ella is exactly what you want her to be, feminine, kind, beautiful inside and out, allowing you to immediately toss all those other versions of her from your mind and get on #TeamElla. The Prince plays sincerity and sensitive without an ounce of spinelessness, superbly. While no Elon Musk or Jason Statham, he is quite adorable and I give him an 11. The two have the vital, authentic chemistry needed and we like it so much, I’m pretty sure we all dubbed Tophella or Ellepher the IT couple of the year, inside of 30 seconds of them meeting. All of the supporting ensemble is very well cast and many of them get an opportunity to shine and do so brightly.
While I’d be a bit concerned about the 2 ½ hour runtime including intermission, for younger kids, the children in the audience I saw, seemed awake and engaged up to the very end. It is a dance heavy show and while waltzing isn’t my thing personally and some of it goes on for quite some time, there is some fun choreography that moves the plot forward and is likely there to buy some essential time for costume changes. I won’t say it dragged, but rather I think many of us were anxious to get to the (SPOILER ALERT) super cute happy ending.
Excuse me while I now pause to use several cliché’s to summarize this evening, but in doing so capture the essence of and set the expectation for the Cinderella experience. On the whole this show is sweet, enchanting, charming, light, delightful and magical. All apply, all are true, so grab your own tiaras; this Princess is giving it 4 pretty, shiny jewels out of 5 in her review tiara. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, plays through Sunday, March 8th at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.