Classic fairy tale
comes to Place des Arts
Cinderella really has legs to fit all those glass slippers
By Byron Toben
It is amazing how the story of a rags-to-riches gal has persisted for centuries.
The most popular version is the French one penned by Charles Perrault in 1697 as Cendrillon. It has been incarnated as an 1899 opera by Jules Massenet and in film by Disney’s 1950 animated version (which saved that studio from bankruptcy).
In 1957, the great Broadway team of Rodgers and Hammerstein created a made for TV musical version, which set records for that black and white era of 108 million viewers. These sort of numbers led to TV colour remakes in 1965 and 1997 which led to stage versions of the TV version culminating in this 2013 Broadway triumph, garnering nine Tony nominations.
A stupendously staged road show version is now playing at the Place Des Arts. It incorporates several other songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein repertoire plus a new book by Douglas Carter Beane.
It is this new book that brings the ancient story more up to date.
All 31 members of the troupe have fine voices as they sing splendidly to the notes produced by the nine musicians and dance acrobatically to gavotte and waltz.
Here, a new character, Jean Michel (Chris Woods) is a social revolutionary enamoured of Gabrielle (Mimi Robinson), one of Cinderella’s stepsisters who in this version, becomes her friend.
Madame the evil stepmother (Sarah Primmer) is dynamically played and bookended in malicious intent by Sebastian (Ryan M. Hunt), the exploitative manager of the Kingdom until the handsome prince Topher (Hayden Stanes) comes of age.
Charlotte (Joanna Johnson) adds much comic relief as the bulky other stepsister.
Ella herself is wonderfully believable as sung by Tatyana Lubov, a relatively recent grad of the University of Wisconsin musical theatre program. What a thrill it must be for her to play the lead role in a North American tour of a major work. She is well matched by Leslie Jackson, a Northwestern University Opera grad as Crazy Marie (secretly the fairy Godmother). All 31 members of the troupe have fine voices as they sing splendidly to the notes produced by the nine musicians and dance acrobatically to gavotte and waltz. (Hard to believe that the stately waltz was initially considered to be the Dirty Dancing of its day… but as a recent Nobel laureate has intimated, “The times, they change.”)
Great stage effects especially as the fairy godmother goes “poof!”
And of course, great music, echoing today’s self-doubt… “Me, who am I” and “Impossible”, balanced by hope “It’s Possible” and questioning, “Do I love you because you’re beautiful. Or…” The theme of “Ten minutes ago” was reminiscent of “Some Enchanted Evening” from R & H’s South Pacific.
Unsolved mystery. Wouldn’t glass slippers crack while dancing or running? Dorothy’s ruby slippers were made of sturdier stuff in Wizard of Oz and Moira’s red ballet shoes of more flexible silk in The Red Shoes. Click to see a more scientific answer to this mystery.
Cinderella continues at Place Des Arts until October 23.
Information and tickets at 514 842-2112 or placedesarts.com
Images: © Carol Rosegg
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club