Although many will think of the fairy tale of “Cinderella” as a something steeped in child-like innocence, the original Brothers Grimm tale was anything but.
For instance, in the original, the evil stepsisters are so eager to win the hand of the prince they take drastic measures to fit into the glass slipper. And when Cinderella is eventually wed to her Prince Charming, the stepsisters receive a gruesome comeuppance.
So, the process of shifting the fairy tale from something simply for children to something accessible to adults isn’t too much of a reach.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s version of “Cinderella” was already a little more sophisticated than a picture book thanks to the gorgeous music composed by the creative team behind “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music.” But the touring production of “Cinderella,” which stopped in Hartford’s The Bushnell this week modernizes the tale even more.
Modernizing, by the way, doesn’t mean ditching the fairy tale costumes and Fairy Godmothers. It merely means that the new book by Douglas Carter Beane and the new direction by Mark Brokaw offers a wink and a nod to the world of today.
For instance, now we have a character, Jean Michel (played by David Andino) is a bit of a socialist rabblerouser if that rabblerouser was played by the character Leonard from “The Big Bang Theory.”
And Cinderella (played by Kaitlyn Davidson) isn’t just a beautiful dreamer waiting for her prince, she too is a bit of a change agent. For instance, at the Prince’s Ball, she’s not afraid to transform the evening’s parlor game, “Ridicule” into “Kindness.” The guests slowly shift from hurling insults at each other to complimenting one another, thanks to Cinderella.
Can someone say “Practice Random Acts of Kindness?”
And in this tale, by the time you can say “They lived happily ever after,” the kingdom has undergone a political transformation.
So for adults who say to themselves, “‘Cinderella,’ who wants to see a fairy tale?” I say this is not your youngest child’s bedtime story.
That said, the show still is very kid friendly. The adult jokes aren’t raunchy. There still is a very fairy tale feel to the story with lots of colorful costumes, broad, accessible physical humor, and a good deal of stage magic. And the show moves along briskly (it’s a mere 2 1/2 hours with an intermission) to keep the young ones from getting too fidgety.
As for the performances, this road show was well cast. Vocally, every singer in this production is stellar. Davidson, in particular, is a delight when she sings songs such “It’s Oossible,” her duet with Marie (played by Liz McCartney), and “Ten Minutes Ago,” her duet with Prince Topher (played by Andy Huntington Jones). Her voice always lilts over the auditorium.
Davidson also finds a fine balance between the sweet innocence we have come to expect from the character of Cinderella and letting her transform into strong individual who overcomes adversity.
There are a bundle of other great characters in this production. Jones does a fine job as the prince who is trying to figure out his place in the world. He manages to avoid turning the character into a spineless jellyfish and is able to portray the character as someone who just needs to grow up and he’ll be fine.
There are also some great comic turns. The two stepsisters—Aymee Garcia and Kimberly Faure—offer up some of the biggest laughs of the night, demonstrating precision comic timing. Also Andino shows a fabulous comic flair.
And McCartney, not only provides some fine vocal moments, but she is extremely likeable as the Fairy Godmother.
There were some production gaffes when I saw the show on Jan. 12. Too many times stage crew members broke the mood when they slipped out onto stage inadvertently. And some props misbehaved. It just looked a little sloppy.
But overall, Rodgers and Hammersteins’ “Cinderella” now playing at The Bushnell is a great night out for young and old. It continues through Sunday in Hartford.
I give the show 3 1/2 out of four stars.
Performances at the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. For tickets, go to Bushnell.org or call (860)987-5900