Thanks to Lisa for this article!
A review from the Globe And Mail

Been there, done that


Thursday, February 1, 2001

Music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein 
Adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs 
Directed by Gabriel Barre 
Starring Eartha Kitt, Deborah Gibson, Paolo Montalban 
At the Pantages Theatre 
Rating: *

Cinderella, a new stage version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 
made-for-television musical, opened Tuesday at the Pantages in 
Toronto for a six-day run. It is one of the weirdest concoctions 
you could imagine, and not only because Eartha Kitt plays the 
fairy godmother and brass-piped popster Deborah Gibson plays 

Written in 1957, as America began to flirt with dressing itself 
up as Camelot, Cinderella fell perfectly into the sunny fairy 
tale spirit of the time. More than 100 million television 
viewers were enchanted by a young Julie Andrews trilling her way 
through Cinderella's enchanted romance, and a stage version was 
quickly created even though the show's book was always seen as 

But at least the old stage show was the Richard Rodgers script. 
This one isn't: It's based on a 1997 Disney video version that 
marked a low point in the fad of trying to make old stories 
sound street smart. It's full of "suck it in, prince!" and "been 
there, done that," and most of the royal characters are made to 
talk like homeboys who have just knocked over an electronics 

Weirdly, the SFX people (the U.S. conglomerate that now owns the 
Pantages) have decided to use obtusely old-fashioned costumes 
and set decor.

There seems to be a conservative public that wants to see 
Cinderella in balloon sleeves, be delighted by flash bulbs 
exploding in a heap of plastic pumpkins, and swoon over a castle 
with plastic windows and light bulbs inside. The castle sits on 
what looks like a wave of Styrofoam, and is glimpsed through a 
scrim curtain covered with flowery scrollwork that looks like a 
child's cut-out paper version of wrought-iron filigree.

The playing style is broad, as in broad-as-a-barn-wall. The 
first cruel stepsister, Joy (Alexandra Kolb), is dressed to look 
as tall, skinny and blond as possible, with a vocal delivery 
built around a whinnying laugh seasoned with the occasional 
snort. The other, Grace (NaTasha Yvette Williams) is black and 
heavily built. This wouldn't normally be the first thing you'd 
mention about a performance, but here it's central to the 
concept: the cruel mother is always after her about her weight, 
and Grace's vocal delivery is straight Harlem.

The stepmother is a guy (Everett Quinton), in red wig together 
with visible five o'clock shadow, which makes it clear that 
English pantomime is a major inspiration here. But there's also 
a dash of Lion King,with on-stage puppeteers waltzing little 
stick mice, birds and a cat around the scene. The puppets 
themselves, though, are very old-fashioned: They look like the 
animals in the Disney storybook version of Cinderella.

It's all painfully calculated, and it's not surprising that the 
performers have difficulty generating charm and spontaneity. The 
most successful is Paolo Montalban as the prince: His strategy 
is to act like a well-mannered Yale undergrad who's wandered by 
accident into the chronic ward of a mental hospital. He sings 
with a pellucid sincerity that Rodgers and Hammerstein would 
have admired. Kudos also to Leslie Becker as the queen.

Another anchor is Kitt, whose iconic status entitles her to camp 
up a role that was campy even in the original. She's the one who 
toys with Cinderella, pretending she can't do the magic; and she 
also makes an appearance at the ball, where she demonstrates 
that she can still hoof it like a chorus girl. She's having fun 
in an unself-conscious way, and in this setting it's much 

Gibson's latest album is called Mind Your Own Business,and 
that's the pop attitude and delivery she brings to The Sweetest 
Sounds and In My Own Little Corner. Broadway tradition allows 
princesses a little brassiness, but only on condition they can 
do the sweetness thing too. Gibson never successfully changes 
register, emotionally or musically, and the effect is oppressive 
after a while. 
Cinderella plays at Toronto's Pantages Theatre through Sunday; 
for tickets: 416-872-2222.