Just in time for the holidays, the Olney Theatre Center, located in Montgomery County is presenting what is called the “Enchanted Version” of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella based on the 1997 TV version which starred Brandy and Whitney Houston.
In the lobby waiting for the doors to open, I counted at least a dozen little girls all dressed up as Cinderella. Families also enjoyed getting their picture taken in front of a huge pumpkin carriage. Before the show I could even hear some good parents coach their child on audience etiquette.
Cinderella is the classic story about about the Stepmother (Donna Migliaccio) and her daughters Grace (Tracy Lynn Olivera) and Joy (Jaime Kelton) who walk all over Cinderella. When Cinderella (Jessica Lauren Ball) dreams of going to the ball given by the King (Dan Manning) and Queen (Carole Graham Lehan) and meeting the handsome Prince Christopher (Matthew John Kacergis), her Fairy Godmother (Terry Burrell) magically appears to help her wishes come true.
Olney Theatre’s production has a lot of good things going for it, such as the cast and, of course, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s beautiful songs.
I have seen Jessica Lauren Ball play the role of Cinderella before at Toby’s Dinner Theatre and thought she was as terrific then as she is now. Her child-like innocence paired with her outstanding singing voice makes her well-cast for this role. Matching Jessica’s outstanding singing voice is Matthew John Kacergis as the handsome Prince Christopher. When they sing together songs like “Ten Minutues Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” this pair is a match fit for a king and queen. Speaking of which, Dan Manning and Carole Graham Lehan are delightful as the King and Queen. These experienced actors sing their duet, “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” in what is the most charming part of the show.
Not so charming are the ugly stepsisters Grace and Joy and their mother. Just picture Grace (Tracy Lynn Olivera) as the big and know-it-all sister opposite of Joy (Jaime Kelton), the small, dumb sister with an obnoxious laugh. The two sisters are anything but a symbol of grace and joy, but they will leave you in stitches! These sisters are jealous of Cinderella and treat her poorly under the guidance of Donna Migliaccio as the Stepmother. The three “ladies” order Cinderella around the home as if she were their servant and not a family member. “Cinderella, close the door,” shouted Grace. “Cinderella, fetch me a cookie,” shouted Joy. The Stepmother finds this behavior perfectly acceptable. Donna Migliaccio doesn’t play the role as scary or overly evil. She plays the role as more jealous and hurt that she isn’t as pretty on the outside as Cinderella. Sadly, none of them ever come to realize that it is Cinderella’s beauty on the inside that truly makes her beautiful.
Thank goodness for the Fairy Godmother! She is the one who was a mother-like, positive influence on Cinderella. Terry Burrell played the role with great sincerity. This production had many positive messages throughout that play that I much appreciated. Terry delivered positive lines as “It’s what you do with a wish that counts” and “Everything you’ve done in your life has led to this moment,” with such clarity that it would have made motivational speakers like Joel Osteen or Louise L. Hay very proud! Her singing voice helped to tell the positive messages in song as well with “There’s Music In You,” a sweet song to end the show.
Olney Theatre’s production has a lot of good things going for it…
All the performers were good, but it was perhaps Kevin McAllister as Lional, the flamboyant royal steward, who walked away with much of the laughs. I thought I was going to fall out of my seat when, while commenting about finding the lady who fits the glass slipper, he said “Who dances in glass slippers anyways?” What is more, the man can sing! His professional voice especially brought to life the song, “The Prince is Giving a Ball.”
Now I can be viewed as seeing the glass slipper as half empty instead of half full, but there were some aspects of this production which I found less than enchanting.
As good as the live musicians were, the tiny six piece orchestra wasn’t enough to do justice to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s rich score. In particular, the bassline wasn’t as predominant as it should be, making the music sound thin and weak. Adding a cello or electric bass would have gone a long way to strengthen the sound of the score.
Some of the costumes designed by Pei Lee really felt out of place. What bothered me the most was in the opening scene when the Stepmother was dressed in what appeared to be a pirate costume. Complete with black pirate hat, gold buckle belt, and a blue and black with leopard print dress, it looked like it could have been out of the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m not sure how the pirate costume fits in with the story of Cinderella.
Director Bobby Smith gave much of the show a Vaudeville look and feel. During the portion of the story when Lionel is going throughout the town looking to find the lady that fits the slipper, Mr. Smith took the liberty to have a silhouette of characters from other Rodgers & Hammerstein shows, like The King and I and The Sound of Music trying on the slipper to the tune of that particular shows music. Maria as a nun trying on the slipper? Some audience members will surely think it is clever how he paid homage to Rogers & Hammerstein. For me, I would have much rather had something that the children would have enjoyed, like having Lionel parade through the audience and have a few of the children try on the glass slipper.
People like to tinker with the book of Cinderella by Oscar Hammerstein II. The script has changed a lot from the original 1957 TV version starring Julie Andrews. Other TV versions include remakes in 1965 starring Lesley Ann Warren and 1997 starring Brandy. Coming soon to Broadway in 2013, this play will have a new book written by Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed). For me, I feel if the glass slipper ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Other moments in this production didn’t seem as magical as they could have been. For example, Cinderella and the Prince never rode in the carriage, or even got in it. With the scripts over the top cheesy jokes, costumes, and staging, the feel of the show was also much more Vaudeville than enchanting, creating a story that didn’t seem to be taken quite seriously.
Overall, this production is saved thanks to the good performances by the actors and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s music. Sadly, there are moments which could have been more magical and enchanting, but that’s nothing that the Fairy Godmother coudn’t have fixed, if only you were to wish for it.
Running Time: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Cinderella plays through December 30, 2012 at Olney Theatre Center’s Main Stage – 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road in Olney, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 924-3400, or purchase them online.