Photo from the touring production of 'Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella' at the fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis

The fabulous Fox theatre presents a new version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella filled with wit and whimsy that perfectly suits the familiar tale. With a rewritten book that retains all the sense of magic and impossible possibilities while giving the heroine a contemporary attitude, the show feels fresh and empowering instead of outdated. The result is a thoroughly delightful show that mixes nostalgia and romance with a clever can-do attitude and a kind heart.

Ella, or Cinder-Ella as her stepmother mockingly calls her, spends her time cooking, cleaning, and serving her cruel stepmother and two stepsisters, Charlotte and Gabriella. One day as she’s returning from foraging in the woods, she unknowingly crosses paths with Prince Topher and his entourage. From their brief exchange, we see that Ella and Topher are kindred spirits – kind, good natured, and fair-minded. After the prince leaves, Ella gives the coin she was given to an old woman who lives in the woods, another simple but important act of kindness.

Shortly thereafter, a royal ball is announced for the purpose of finding the prince a bride, and every eligible girl in the kingdom scrambles to find the perfect dress and hairstyle for the big event. Well, every girl except Ella. Though she manages to get an invitation, her stepmother tears it up. Naturally, the fairy godmother shows up, magic ensues, and Ella captivates the prince and everyone at the ball until the clock strikes midnight and she makes a dash for the exit.

Tatyana Lubov and Louis Griffin are captivating as Ella and Topher, both are quite expressive, with bright, upbeat demeanors that complement each other and easily plays from the stage to the back of the house. There’s strong chemistry between the two as they harmonize nicely and, while neither are the strongest dancers on the stage, move together with natural ease and grace. Leslie Jackson fabulously transforms from the hunched over old woman to the fairy godmother, and her essential goodness is made clear from the first moment she speaks. Nicole Zelka and Corbin Williams are awkwardly adorable as Gabrielle and Jean-Michel, while Joanna Johnson is cleverly sarcastic and pointedly humorous as sister Charlotte. Christopher Swan and Sarah Smith scheme and conspire as the prince’s guardian and the stepmother, while Vincent B. Davis does his best to maintain order and propriety in the kingdom.

The book’s updates enhance Cinderella’s story while still delivering all the fantasy of the familiar tale, and will likely please parents who want to introduce their children to positive, self-motivated heroes and heroines. The characters are well defined and portrayed with just the right amount of exaggeration and the special effects are just dazzling enough to encourage the willing suspension of disbelief. The set design provides a perfect foundation for a story about wonder, enchantment, and possibility, and each scene creates one idyllic vision after another.

Best of all, the beloved songs are given gorgeous renditions and some clever interplay. “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible,” and “Ten Minutes Ago” resonate with simple joy and loveliness, and several other numbers are rousing marches and waltzes that provide a perfect soundtrack for the impressive choreography. The dances are both graceful and showy, creating a kaleidoscope of color and movement. Excellent use of modern, ballet, and ballroom dance, with the styles effortlessly entwining, creates mesmerizing, athletic numbers that completely entertain. Then there are the costumes and costume changes. The suits and gowns are breathtakingly beautiful and watching Cinderella transform, as the majority of her costume changes occur in front of the audience, is pure stage magic and quite awe-inspiring.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, in performance at the Fox Theatre through December 31, show is beautifully told and enjoyable for all ages, with stunning visuals and a smartly updated storyline. The energetic and absolutely charming fairytale gets a contemporary boost with updates that refresh the show for modern audiences, but its heart remains true to the original. Parents wishing to introduce their children to a show where kindness, clever thinking, and a self-determined heroine win will find this new version of Cinderella a delightful and thoroughly engaging choice.

 

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