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'Cinderella' tale prevails over show's shortcomings 


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.