The Aurora production is top of the line
Cinderella is the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical written for television. Originally broadcast in 1957 with Julie Andrews in the title role, it has since been modified multiple times. Now playing at Aurora’s Vintage Theatre, the classic tale has yet another spin to it in a strong production that’s a worthy addition to the busy holiday lineup of shows around the state.
The director and choreographer of this production, Christopher Page-Sanders, notes that he was inspired as a child who watched the 1997 version, with Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother. In this version, we a stepsister fall in love with an outspoken political rabble-rouser and Prince Topher call for free and fair elections, I couldn’t help wondering how much of the subversive plot existed in 1957. (Apparently none of it; this was a 2013 addition for a stage production).
Aside from these additions, you already know this story: Beautiful woman, dead father, evil stepmother who makes her clean and wait on her obnoxious stepsisters. A royal ball, lost glass slipper. This update adds a much more sympathetic stepsister, Gabrielle, who falls in love with the aforementioned rabble-rouser (Jean Michel, the man of the people!). But again, the story will be mostly familiar to any audience.
There is a lot to like about this production, first and foremost the dancing and the talented, hard-working ensemble. Not only do they dance and sing their way through the entire performance, they do it with multiple roles and costume changes. They move.
Page-Sanders did a fantastic job with the choreography, and the ensemble rises to the occasion in their execution of it. They are, quite simply, one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in regional theater.
Camryn Nailah is a winsome Cinderella, and Sonsharae Tull as Sebastian (the prince’s advisor) is also a standout. But Kara Morrisey as Charlotte (the meaner stepsister) very nearly steals the show. (Evil stepsisters are always more fun to play anyway.) But Morrisey’s comic timing and expression are perfect here. It also adds to what otherwise is a more sober (if romantic) plotline.
I would say, however, that the show feels just a little long. With a holiday run, it would appear to be ideally positioned as a family activity. But younger children might find it tough to sit still for so long, and the more political themes are better suited to a preteen and older crowd. (I’d make a possible exception for a young child who was very into dancing and costuming, because that is definitely top of the line.)
But I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Cinderella to adults and more mature children. The play has the festive feel that seems so appropriate during the holidays, and the talented cast is well worth watching.