By STUART NULMAN
He was born in 1902 in Queens, New York, the son of a prosperous German Jewish family, in which his father was a prominent New York physician. The other was also born in New York (but in 1895), the son of a theatrical manager and grandson of a prominent vaudeville and theatrical impresario; although he was raised as an Episcopalian, his father’s side of the family was Jewish.
But when they got together for the first time in 1943 to collaborate on the creation of a Broadway musical, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II began one of the greatest partnerships in the history of the American theatre. Until Hammerstein’s death in 1960, Rodgers and Hammerstein created some of the most beloved musicals ever to hit a theatrical stage – a total of 11 – that included such classics as “Oklahoma!”, “South Pacific”, “Carousel”, “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music”.
Until October 23, Montreal audiences will get the chance to see the magic of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s rich musical legacy, as their production of “Cinderella” will grace the stage of Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts.
“Cinderella” was created by Rodgers & Hammerstein in 1957 not originally for the Broadway stage, but for network television. It made its debut as a special broadcast that aired on CBS on March 31, 1957 and starred Julie Andrews in the title role. It was viewed by more than 100 million people, was nominated for two Emmy Awards, and was remade for television in 1965 and 1997.
The production of “Cinderella” that is being presented at Place des Arts is based on the Broadway adaptation that debuted in 2013 and was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning one for best costume design. This production gives a contemporary spin on the classic fairy tale by Charles Perrault, complete with the favorite features such as the fairy godmother, a former pumpkin-turned-coach, the masked ball and the glass slipper, along with a repertoire of classic Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes as “In My Own Little Corner”, “Impossible/It’s Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago”.
Overall, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is a delightfully enjoyable production, in which the classic fairy tale about the much-maligned stepdaughter Cinderella (or “Ella” for short) finds her Prince Charming (well, actually, Prince Topher) is told in the dazzling, vibrant way only Rodgers & Hammerstein knew how. And although Cinderella and the prince do end up living happily ever after, this version of the Cinderella story has its share of unpredictable plot twists that makes this production stand out so well.
The costume are colourful and breathtaking (especially when Cinderella’s costume magically transforms from rags to a beautiful ball gown) the choreography is wonderfully executed, and there are plenty of snappy lines of dialogue that bring a steady stream of laughs (some of them quite timely and relevant). And there are plenty of strong performances that carry this show, such as Tatyana Lubov in the title role, Hayden Staynes as Prince Topher, Leslie Jackson as Marie (aka the Fairy Godmother), and Chris Woods in his scene-stealing performance as village rabble rouser Jean-Michel.
I also noticed during the opening night performance that a great deal of the audience members were comprised of mothers who brought along their young daughters along for THE live fairy tale experience of a lifetime (and some of the little ladies were dressed up in their Cinderella finest). Basically, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is bona fide family entertainment at its best.
Ticket prices for the national touring company presentation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” at Place des Arts range between $43.75 and $103.25. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to www.evenko.ca.