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Review: 'Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella' sparkles for a modern crowd

Paige Faure as Cinderella in "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella,"on tour. (AP Photo/Allied Live, Carol Rosegg)
Paige Faure as Cinderella in "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella,"on tour. (AP Photo/Allied Live, Carol Rosegg)
Published Oct. 22, 2014

TAMPA — Much has been made about Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella being a revised feminist fairy tale fit for a new generation.

Indeed, our sooty heroine is much smarter here, and she falls in love with the prince as a person rather than a throne. She's interested in the democracy of her kingdom. And in a twist, she takes control over that whole glass-slipper incident.

That said, there's still a wedding dress large enough to rival Princess Diana's. And there's still the over-arching notion that for the ladies of the town, ultimate happiness hinges on snagging a man.

The new production tries to rectify modern mores without sacrificing the classic narrative so entrenched in American DNA. It succeeds in some places, less in others.

But if you're going to the touring production of Cinderella, at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts through Sunday, you've probably already made peace with princesses. If you can get past the imperfect delivery, you are going to have a twirling, colorful, sparkling good time.

Rodgers and Hammerstein created the musical for television, the original with Julie Andrews. For the 2013 production, Douglas Carter Beane reimagined the kinder, more enlightened script based on accounts of Cinderella by Perrault and Prokofiev. He packed it full of rim-shot jokes:

"That man?" Cinderella says of the prince. "A world leader? But he appears to have a heart, mind and soul."

Cinderella, directed by Mark Brokaw, is an all-out feast for the eyes, with costumes by William Ivey Long that dazzled the crowd. Cinderella transforms from rags to riches before our eyes.

This diverse cast is packed with Great White Way veterans, including Paige Faure and Andy Jones, who have both played Cinderella and Prince Topher (yes, Topher) on Broadway. Their voices are sweet as can be, delivering fan favorites Ten Minutes Ago, In My Own Little Corner and Impossible. Kecia Lewis as fairy godmother Marie has an impressive Broadway pedigree and a voice to match.

Faure keeps Cinderella impossibly earnest throughout, but Jones plays Topher with a winking wit. His character enjoys more dimension here than the typical prince. His parents are dead, and although he rules the kingdom, he's under the thumb of a plotting royal manager named Sebastian (Blake Hammond).

"You're going to give her some of your things so she doesn't have a revolution and take all of your things," Sebastian explains to the prince.

There's a second coupling in Cinderella's no-so-evil stepsister, Gabrielle (Ashely Park) and the town gadfly, Jean-Michel (David Andino). In the second act, things turn a little after school special about the roles and responsibilities of government.

The lessons don't last long before we're back to the dresses, before we're back to the fairy godmother soaring through the sky in what can only be described as every drag queen's dream prom dress.

And all worries of the modern world fade away, because, glitter.

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Contact Stephanie Hayes at shayes@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716. Follow @stephhayes.

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