Like a sequined dress from the fairy godmother herself, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” shimmers with life at the Wharton Center. Featuring a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, this musical production seamlessly blends classic songs with a modern, irreverent script.
“Cinderella,” of course, is the timeless tale of a poor servant girl who meets and captivates the prince with the help of magical threads courtesy of her fairy godmother. This Broadway production is adapted from a 1957 made-for-television special starring Julie Andrews. It also features a somewhat progressive, class-conscious plot and a more politically correct update of the title character herself.
Set somewhere in a pre-electricity, post-printing press European fantasy kingdom, Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones) laments his lack of purpose. He slays forest monsters with ease — including a giant praying mantis — but feels bored and restless. Meanwhile, domestic servant Ella (Paige Faure) longs to escape her mean and ungrateful stepmother and stepsisters. After a chance encounter in the woods, the two remember each other’s kindness and uncharacteristic generosity, especially given their respective social positions.
Faure and Jones are beautifully matched as two sincere, yet sensitive souls who learn to find their respective voices. Faure’s crisp soprano sooths the forest creatures in “In My Own Little Corner” and blends nicely with Jones in “Ten Minutes Ago.” She’s also a match for Marie (Liz McCartney), Ella’s fairy godmother. The stunning special effects of a pumpkin transformation and blink-of-an-eye dress changes barely keep pace with their voices on “Impossible” and “It’s Possible,” two of the strongest numbers in the first act.
The show also features a strong supporting cast, including Topher’s manipulative court advisor, Sebastian (Blake Hammond), Ella’s stepmother, Madame (Beth Glover), and stepsisters Gabrielle and Charlotte (Kaitlyn Davidson and Aymee Garcia, respectively). By far, this is one of the strongest touring casts to come through Wharton, featuring several stage veterans straight from the Broadway production.
Perhaps the show’s greatest strength is its light tone. “Cinderella” is definitely a fantasy. Major problems in the kingdom are solved through blanket forgiveness — a wedding and a quick decree turning an aristocratic empire into an overnight democracy. But the show never gets bogged down in sappy sentimentality. Despite the two-hour plus run time, the pace feels breathless, and its message of kindness and forgiveness over ridicule and self-preservation are timeless and universal.
7:30 p.m. Wednesday,, Sept. 23 and Thursday, Sept. 24; 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27
Tickets start at $38
750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing
(517) 432-2000, whartoncenter.com