Article from Stage Door Guest
Thanks to Lisa for this information!

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 

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 

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 

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.