Article from Stage Door Guest Thanks to Lisa for this information! http://www.stage-door.org/reviews/misc2001.htm Cinderella presented by NETworks, Pantages Theatre, Toronto, January 30- February 4, 2001 Stage Door Guest Review by Christopher Hoile In 1956, Rodgers and Hammerstein were enticed to write a musical for the new medium of television. On March 31, 1957, the 14th anniversary of the première of their groundbreaking musical Oklahoma!, Cinderella was broadcast on CBS starring Julie Andrews and was watched by an audience of an estimated 107 million. This success led to two further remakes for television-- one in 1965 starring Leslie Ann Warren and one in 1997 with Brandy (Norwood). For those who love it, the show has always seemed too charming to remain confined to the small screen. The original Hammerstein script is licensed to stock and amateur companies several hundred times a year, and it was in this version that Southern Ontario most recently saw the piece in Max Reimer's delightful 1998 production for Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton and the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. The current touring production now in Toronto has been newly adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs from Robert L. Freedman's 1997 television script and re-orchestrated by Andrew Lippa. It is fully to Max Reimer's credit that this new production, for all its star power, slickness and glitz, comes nowhere near, as his did, to capturing the show's inherent wistfulness and charm. Director Gabriel Barre has retained the colour-blind casting of 1997 version to a joyfully liberating effect, with a white Queen and black King, white and black Stepsisters and a Filipino Prince. It is unfortunate that the main liability of the show should be the Cinderella herself, former teen pop star Debbie (now Deborah) Gibson. Although she has recently appeared in a number of musicals, she does not have a remarkable voice. It is strongest in its lower register but (unlike, say, Julie Andrews) loses power in higher or more sustained notes. In this respect, her duets with Eartha Kitt and Paolo Montalban always show her to a disadvantage. Unlike the other members of the cast, she sings each song as if it were another pop song not a show tune, with the annoying pop singer's habit of sliding entrances to each phrase. What succeeds with the audience, more than her singing, is that she has a real stage presence and is a rather good actress. Hers is not the waif-like step-daughter-made- servant who has to console herself with daydreams. Rather Gibson gives us a spunky All-American girl, temporarily inconvenienced by her family situation, who, like an Horatio Alger hero, knows she can make it if she just wishes hard enough. This approach might be appropriate if this were a show-biz story set in New York--but it is not. To make us care about her, Cinderella's plight has to seem dire enough to require supernatural intervention. Her Prince Charming (here Prince Christopher) is Paolo Montalban (not Ricardo's son), who played the same role in the 1997 televised version. He is a real find who has everything going for him. Besides his good looks, he's completely at home on stage, can act, can dance and sings with a strong, warm baritone that puts Jon Cypher on the original cast recording completely in the shade. He turns Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?, which can sound faintly ridiculous, into a expression of genuine wonderment. As the Fairy Godmother, Eartha Kitt, just turned 74, steals every scene she's in. Her famous subterranean voice is perfect for this supernatural character, who, as the rewritten book suggests, is really the ghost of Cinderella's mother. In Impossible, her familiar vibrato lingers on the final syllable in quite a delicious way. Speaking, she delivers the verse introduction to the show as if it were Shakespeare. Given her legendary status, it's fitting that she is accorded an additional Rodgers song, There's Music in You, to close the show. As for the other roles, the adaptor Briggs has shortened the already small role of the King (Ken Prymus) and Queen (Leslie Becker) and taken away most of their funniest lines. The role of the herald Lionel (Victor Trent Cook) has been expanded, but Lippa's orchestrations for The Prince is Giving a Ball are so loud that the jokes involving the ruling family's names go unheard despite Cook's strong singing voice. Director Gabriel Barre has the role of the Stepmother played by a man (Everett Quinton) and the Stepsisters played by women (Alexandra Kolb and NaTasha Yvette Williams). Quinton plays the Stepmother so much like a woman that the point of the cross-casting is lost. It is much funnier, as in the Theatre Aquarius production, to have the Stepsisters played by men, so that when they are said to be ugly, they really are. I'm of two minds about the inclusion of puppets to represent four white mice, a cat and the Fairy Godmother's companion bird. If Cinderella truly is alone when she sings In My Own Little Corner, the sadness of her situation is stronger and her compensation through imagination more poignant. If, as here, she has a chorus of cute little creatures listening to her, the wistfulness of the song is lost. On the other hand, the puppets created by Integrity Designworks LLC are quite adorable and are manipulated superbly. They were a big hit with the youngsters in the audience, including my accompanying 9-year-old critic Ryan. A number scenes invented for them are among the funniest in the show. James Youmans' sets and Pamela Scofield's costumes are a delight. The peasants of the kingdom seem to go for garish colour combinations in a big way. Scofield makes an neat visual point by having Stepmother and -sisters, despite the elaborate cut of their dresses, favour these same low-class colours while the court they vainly hope to join is clad in subtle greys and pastels. Director Barre manages the numerous scene changes and transformations scenes smoothly and effectively. With lighting designer Tim Hunter, he makes especially good use of shadows, showing the pumpkin grow to the size of a coach and, most wittily, depicting solely in silhouette the various women of the kingdom trying to fit the glass slipper. I could not warm to Andrew Lippa's re-orchestrations. It's hard to improve on Robert Russell Bennett after all. While extending some songs into dance sequences makes sense, it is a major flaw not to have Cinderella's wedding march be a variation on In my Own Little Corner as Rodgers intended. That transformation shows that Cinders' fantasy has now been made triumphantly real--but Lippa omits it. Even if it is a good deal less subtle than it should be, you really shouldn't miss the chance to see this lovely show on stage. Even if Deborah Gibson does not surpass her predecessors, Paolo Montalban goes far beyond them. And, of course, you don't want to miss Ms. Kitt.