May 21, 2019
by Alexa Chipman
The story of Cinderella evokes glittering ballrooms, happy endings and the power of kindness. In the adaptation by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cinderella and her companions are surprisingly political. Greedy, power hungry nobles are bankrupting the land and evicting peasants while hiding their cruel acts from the naïve Prince Topher. Inspired by the revolutionary Jean-Michel, she attends the ball to inform the prince of their machinations and falls in love with him by accident.
The visual spectacle of vibrant gowns (designed by Pamela J. Johnson) and fairytale landscapes (projections by Chris Schloemp) will delight all ages. There are captivating touches of stagecraft magic, such as a terrifying dragon and Cinderella’s transformation from rags to a princess. This is a feast for the eyes, although it felt too drawn-out at times.
‘Cinderella’ features a colorful cast of villains—the vile Sebastian (Larry Williams) who keeps the kingdom in poverty in order to enrich himself, his crony Lord Pinkleton (Sean O’Brien) and the self-centered stepmother Madame (Daniela Innocenti-Beem). Their preening intrigues and outrageous personalities are a highlight of this production.
Secretly kind-hearted stepsister Gabrielle (Shawna Eiermann) is comic gold through her sparkling stage presence and exaggerated physicality. She and Ella (Brittany Law) come across as true sisters, joining forces to defeat evil. Their close relationship is emphasized by director Sheri Lee Miller and reinforces the message that women are stronger when standing together against a corrupt government who seeks to control them.
‘Cinderella’ has the whimsy of its fairytale origins but packs a political punch. While young children will enjoy the pomp and wonder of Spreckels’ magnificent production, most of the writing is aimed at an older audience and may not resonate with them. This version reinvents the classic with relevant commentary and dynamic women who speak up for what they believe in.
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella Presented by Spreckels Theatre Company through May 26, 2019
Thurs at 7:00pm, Fri/Sat at 7:00pm, Sun at 1:00pm
Tickets: $36 general, $34 seniors, $18 children, $30 students
Photos by Jeff Thomas
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Suggested audience high school and older--mild adult themes and strong language.
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