Birmingham News Thanks to Lisa for this information! Today's Birmingham News Entertainment News 'Cinderella' tale prevails over show's shortcomings 02/07/02 BETSY BUTGEREIT PRICE News staff writer If you're going to go to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," go for the lovely music and charming performances of the actress and actor who play Cinderella and her prince. Don't expect great things from legend Eartha Kitt. She's underused and underplays what little role she has as the Fairy Godmother, mostly posing prettily for admiration or oddly displaying her physical flexibility, which is quite nice for someone of 75. Expect to be underwhelmed by the show's special effects. They pale in comparison to last year's "Phantom of the Opera," "Beauty and the Beast," and even "The Lion King," from which "Cinderella" borrows heavily with a bird, mice and a cat operated onstage by puppeteers. Still, "Cinderella" is "Cinderella." The girl gets the guy. The ugly stepmother and stepdaughters get their comeuppance. The steward, played by Brooks Ashmanskas, gets lots of laughs, in the tradition of Nathan Lane. And every kid in the place gets to go home with a $20 stuffed mouse, except for the girls who go home with the $10 star wands. The play opens with Kitt in a midnight-blue sequined gown suspended in the moon, explaining that Cinderella's mother and father have died and that Cinderella grieves under a tree planted by her father in memory of her mother. Then Kitt disappears for an hour. But Jessica Rush as Cinderella and Paola Montalban as the prince are captivating. They have beautiful voices, commanding stage presence and play well together. Everett Quinton as the wicked stepmother is almost too mean for the role, but he appears to have taken well to high heels. NaTasha Yvette Williams and Sandra Bargman are hilarious as the daffily stupid stepsisters. Kids in the audience Tuesday night were doubled up at their bickering. The script is anything but subtle. At one point Williams tells her dimmer-bulb sister Bargman that she's "getting on my one last good nerve," which starts a fight. When Cinderella loses her slipper, a spotlight shines on it and all action stops while Ashmanskas, the steward, goes, "Oh, my." He also has a funny line a few moments later, when the royal family has decided to find Cinderella. He asks, "Has anybody except me noticed that large pumpkin?" But the show is padded to fill more than two hours, so much so that at one point when Cinderella is singing to her mice and cat friends in Act I, a 7-year-old leaned over and said, "This is boring." (The same kid later begged for a stuffed mouse.) That doesn't stop the musical numbers from being rousingly good, and it didn't stop the audience from giving the show a standing ovation Tuesday night. And it didn't stop Eartha Kitt from dancing around to the music as the curtain closed, which, frankly, we would have liked to see a whole lot more of.