“The prince is giving a ball!” exclaimed a hopeful Cinderella at the beginning of the eponymous musical, which took place on the luminous Granada stage November 27. As the audience, we kicked back, relaxed, and assumed the rest would be fairy-tale history, right? Well, not in Douglas Carter Beane’s reworked Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which is the version the Theater League presented. In Beane’s story, there are two balls, a forbidden romance, a plebeian revolution, and enough witty banter to keep us all on our toes.
In Act 1, Cinderella befriends a quirky, homeless hag who eventually reveals herself as Cinderella’s fairy godmother. The crowd held its breath as Cinderella was magically changed from her plain smock dress into a gleaming, white gown for the ball — truly a brilliant, illusory performance by Kaitlyn Mayse, who played Cinderella (aka Ella).
Without missing a beat, the Ladies of the Court staged a gleeful “Ten Minutes Ago” ballroom dance, music courtesy of the live orchestra. Their gowns were so rich in color — rose, gold, peach, and blue — and detail that the ladies looked as if they stepped out of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
Act 2 sees everything coming together — the shoe fits, a step-sister discovers true love, and a bold commoner gets elected prime minister — with Mayse, Lukas James Miller (Topher, the prince), and Zina Ellis (the fairy godmother) giving emotive, unflinching performances. In addition to the play’s visual and audio frills, there is an underlying message that the best things are achieved through kindness — not beauty, society, or status. Beane’s rewriting of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella certainly punches up the traditional fairy tale. My advice? See all the Cinderellas you can — maybe you’ll discover one that perfectly fits you.