Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Theatre Cedar Rapids — through Dec. 19, $27-57
This past Friday, Theatre Cedar Rapids reopened its main stage for the first time since COVID-19 hit with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Director Angie Toomsen brings the adapted stage play to life through the brilliant actors throughout every scene. The new libretto, written for the 2013 Broadway production by Douglas Carter Beane, brings the differences between townspeople and the aristocracy into focus. These political undertones are subtle and sensitive.
Scenic and lighting designer S. Benjamin Farrar’s vision begins with a sort of stained glass effect, and the magic of that carries throughout the show. Joni Dee Sackett’s costumes designs mirror and echo the set design to extend the magic of the show.
Energetic choreography and an enthusiastic ensemble round out the overall effects. Megan Robinson has choreographed spirited movement throughout the show; you may find yourself wanting to see a scene again to be able to take it all in. The variety of ensemble dancers and featured dancers create a colorful and lively background for the story.
If you come prepared to see a Disney version of Cinderella, you will find a different musical awaiting you. This new book, along with new songs and intriguing undercurrents, will delight you in unanticipated ways. Prince Topher (Brandon Burkhart) is conflicted about the goings on in his kingdom. Not so much a snob of aristocracy as in past versions, Burkhart’s character is particularly human. His advisers, chief of which is the devious Sebastian (Caleb Haselhuhn), set up an us vs. them mentality that the Prince fights against.
In the meantime, Tricia Waechter who plays Ella’s stepmother, called Madame, openly admits she married for money and has no love lost on Ella. Madeline Kadlec brings that title character to life through spot-on acting and beautiful vocals. Mia Gimenez is the Fairy Godmother in a lively and wonderful take that is gorgeously set.
The step-sisters are played by Hannah C. Green (Charlotte) and Beth Nelsen (Gabrielle), both of whom bring humor and lightness to their roles not present in previous incarnations of the telling of this story. Their song “Stepsister’s Lament” is a highlight of the second act. Still, in the end, the audience is treated to the triumph of kindness over cruelty.
If you have seen Cinderella in the past and think this is not a musical you need to see again, you are wrong. The new adaptation, the classic songs, the new songs and the traditional set-up couched in a modern take beckon audiences back to Theatre Cedar Rapids. This show offers modern sensibilities, inventive magic, outstanding vocals and acting — all of which combine to tell a classic story in a way that all theater-goers will love.