REVIEW — When seeing Tuacahn Center for the Arts’ production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” it is a good idea to bring along a child. That way, when the handsome prince slays a giant or when an orange pumpkin impossibly turns into a glowing carriage, you can see the magic shining in their eyes.
The story of Cinderella is centuries old, and many variations of it have been told throughout the world in storybooks, on stage and on screen. For this season’s Broadway in the Desert production, Tuacahn has chosen the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical adaptation that most closely follows the French story “Cendrillon, ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre,” by Charles Perrault.
Perrault’s iteration of the folklore is widely credited as being one of the most popular versions thanks in part to his additions of many of the now iconic portions, including the pumpkin, the fairy godmother and the glass slipper.
Like many versions of “Cinderella,” this production focuses on the story of a young girl in unfortunate circumstances who, by the grace of her fairy godmother, is given the opportunity to make all her dreams come true. The French version has the added twist that Cinderella must also help the prince see all the injustices taking place in his kingdom.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was originally written for a 1957 television broadcast. It was later remade twice for television and for a few different variations for stage. The Broadway version premiered in 2013.
Tuacahn’s production is one of two musicals playing in the amphitheater currently – Roald Dahl’s “Matilda the Musical” is the other. “The Prince of Egypt” will open in the amphitheater in July, and “The Million Dollar Quartet” will open in the indoor Hafen Theater also in July.
Between “Matilda” and “Cinderella,” the latter is the less meaty of the two. Despite the production’s attempts to bring in the heavier elements of class and social disparities, the politics get lost in the anticipation of the romance between Cinderella and the prince.
The show is light and sweet and yes, even corny at times, but where it lacks in strong storytelling, “Cinderella” more than compensates in pure stage magic. And that is where bringing children really pays off.
My companion for “Cinderella” was my 6-year-old daughter, whose sheer wide-eyed delight at the real horses, flying fairy godmother, magically transforming gown and other spectacular stage surprises was enough to make the production more than worth it.
And in true Tuacahn fashion, this production took the show’s title song “Impossible” and made it all seem possible on the stage.
“Cinderella” is strengthened by strong performances from supporting characters, including Matt Ban – Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda” – as the sinister and sniveling Sebastian, who consistently misleads and controls Prince Topher.
Ban makes a fabulous antagonist, and though his character here doesn’t quite incite the fear of Miss Trunchbull, he is still able to deliver a bit of a villain.
Erika Amato as Madame (aka the wicked stepmother) is captivating on stage. Her character is in turns comedic, social climber and downright wicked to her stepdaughter.
Another stand out character is Lord Pinkleton, played by Frank Viveros. Viveros has the best voice on stage, and though he isn’t seen often, he makes his presence known through song. Watch for Viveros to have a big moment in the first act’s “The Prince Is Giving a Ball.”
This version of “Cinderella” also showcases a secondary love story that features Cinderella’s more sympathetic stepsister Gabrielle (Sara Gallo) and Cinderella’s friend and social justice warrior Jean-Michel (Josh Black).
Gallo, who plays Mrs. Wormwood in “Matilda,” gets to show off her lighter side in “Cinderella,” and the relationship between her and Black is cute and playful.
Taking the helm of the production are Rebecca Brudner as Ella (Cinderella), Aaron Young as Topher (the prince) and Linda Griffin as Marie (or “Crazy Marie”, aka the fairy godmother).
Brudner and Griffin portrayed my favorite dynamic of the show. Their friendship is the strongest relationship in the whole production, and both really shine in “Impossible.”
But the show is ultimately about the love that blooms between Prince Topher and Ella. But while both Young and Brudner are kind – and yes, handsome and beautiful – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of depth to their characters. The prince is portrayed as a sort of witless hero who has no idea what is going on in his kingdom, and Cinderella never seems desperate enough to need an escape from her regular life.
When the two meet at the ball, they seem to fall more into mutual like with one another’s kindness than actual love. This perhaps has less to do with the actors than the characters, but still, I would like to have felt a little more urgency.
That being said, the actors are both very gifted and graceful, and as a dancer myself, I couldn’t help but love how Brudner moved across the stage with such poise and strength in her frame.
Along those lines, rounding out the show are some truly beautiful dance moments and lovely music provided by the ensemble and live orchestra.
Though “Cinderella” didn’t really deliver depth, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. In a world that is on a constant heavy dose of politics and partisanship, spending an evening enjoying the sweet stage magic of “Cinderella” is a welcome reprieve. And don’t forget to share it with your children.
“Cinderella” is now playing on alternating nights Monday-Saturday until Oct. 19. Tickets are $29-$96 and can be purchased online, by calling the box office at 800-746-9882 or 435-652-3300 or at the box office located at 1100 Tuacahn Drive in Ivins.
- What: Tuacahn Center for the Arts production of “Cinderella.”
- When: Alternating evenings, Monday-Saturday until Oct. 19.
- Where: Tuacahn Amphitheater, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins.
- Cost: $29-$96.
- Purchase tickets: Online | By calling the box office at 800-746-9882 or 435-652-3300 | At the box office, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins.
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