Written by Penny Neef, age – old, and Catherine Kelly, age 8
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is playing at Chrysler Hall through Sunday, February 7, including matinees on both Saturday and Sunday. If you have children or grandchildren above the age of three or you just want to go to a funny, warm, beautifully crafted musical, pick up the phone now and get your tickets.
Here is a little background info on my co-author for today’s review. Catherine has grown up digital. She has a tablet plus a computer in her room. Her parents are sci fi fans and special effects movies are often featured during family movie nights. She was the only girl on her football team, loves playing Minecraft, but also loves to read. She’s working her way through the Harry Potter books right now. She is a math whiz who has a beautiful singing voice. This was Catherine’s first Broadway show and there couldn’t have been a better choice.
Catherine was excited to get dressed up and head to Chrysler Hall, especially on a school night, but she was a bit blasé about seeing “Cinderella.”
“I’ve seen Cinderella a million times.”
“Not this version of Cinderella,” said her wise old Nana.
That led to a teachable moment about how old tales can be twisted, fractured and changed.
Douglas Carter Beane, the bookwriter of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” was very aware that this show would be many kids’s first experience with a Broadway musical. I spoke to him for a preview article. He and the producers wanted it to be funny with “special effects as old as the theater itself.” They wanted this Cinderella to get up off the cinders and do some good for the kingdom.
There were lots of little girls in the audience, but boys would have really enjoyed this show too. Prince Topher slays a giant bug monster and kills a dragon with a slingshot, all in the first act. The special effects were incredible and just kept coming. Catherine was mesmerized, waiting for the next one to come along. “The pumpkin just exploded into a big golden carriage. It was awesome.” My favorites were the costume changes. Cinderella goes from her ratty old cinder clothes to beautiful ball gowns, not once, but twice. Kaitlyn Davidson, Cinderella, does it so quickly, we couldn’t figure out how she did it.
Liz McCartney, who plays Crazy Marie, the beggar and the Fairy Godmother, transforms in front of your eyes. Here comes a spoiler alert: the Fairy Godmother flies across the stage. Catherine figured that trick out very quickly, but was still delighted with her daring. “She has to hold on pretty tight. She’s up really high.”
All of these special effects are wrapped up in a good story, with an important message, especially during this primary election season. Prince Topher thinks slaying dragons is not quite enough. “I wish I were doing something important with my life.” He can’t quite figure out what he should be doing to help the people of his kingdom, but “unlike many a world leader, he appears to have a heart, mind and soul.”
Cinderella becomes an activist when she hears that the farmers are being evicted from their lands. She goes to the ball, not just to meet the Prince and wear a fancy dress for once her in life, but to deliver a message of kindness and empathy to a court that likes to play “the ridicule game.” She teaches by example, being kind to her evil stepmother, who just doesn’t understand what is going on.
The music is classic Rodgers & Hammerstein and the voices were lovely. Kaitlyn Davidson even looks like a young Julie Andrews, who played the part in the 1957 television production. Andy Huntington Jones, Prince Topher, has a wonderful voice and does a great job of acting the part of a prince who wants to do the best for his people and is willing to listen to others.
There are all kinds of jokes and sight gags spread throughout the production — jokes that made both the kids and the grownups laugh. Catherine loved the part where Cinderella runs down the staircase, heading for home at midnight, realizes she needs to leave a clue, then goes back, takes off her shoe, and deliberately places it on a stair. “That girl knew exactly what she was doing.”
Catherine’s take on Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella? “It’s not anything like the real story.” But she couldn’t stop talking about it, all the way home, even though it was ten o’clock, on a school night.
Go see “Cinderella” this weekend. There are also going to be some excellent Broadway shows for kids coming to Chrysler Hall in the 2016 – 2017 season, including “Annie” and “Elf, the Broadway Musical.”
For more information, go here.