RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA
by Terry Kelleher
Wishes do come true, insists this new production of the timeless fairy tale. Okay, we wish Brandy could sing like Whitney Houston.
Most of the music here comes from the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II score for a 1957 TV version of Cinderella with Julie Andrews (Lesley Ann Warren starred in the 1965 remake). Now Brandy, the 18-year-old actress (Moesha) and recording artist, steps into the title role, while executive producer Houston -- alas, too old at 34 to be the glass-slipper girl -- plays her fairy godmother. Brandy is fine at portraying Cinderella's sweet innocence but lacks the vocal command and emotive power to put over soaring, sentimental ballads like "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" and "The Sweetest Sounds" (borrowed from Rodgers's 1962 stage show No Strings). Houston has too little to do, although she does get to exercise her pipes on the closing "There's Music in You." Luckily the rest of the cast is all we could wish for. Paolo Montalban makes a most attractive prince, Jason Alexander earns his laughs as royal servant Lionel, and Whoopi Goldberg contributes nice comic touches as the queen. As Cinderella's stepmother, Bernadette Peters is funny and believably cruel -- no mean feat.