Drury Lane Theatre’s sparkling production of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” arrives just in time for the holiday season. Warm and inviting, this dreamy show is the perfect wintertime treat.
First things first, “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” is not your Disney “Cinderella.” Adapted specifically for TV, Rodgers and Hammerstein premiered their version of the rags-to-riches tale on television in 1957. The show starred the luminous Julie Andrews and was the first of three adaptations on the small screen. (The most recent adaptation for television in 1997 famously had a multicultural cast and was headlined by Brandy Norwood and Whitney Houston.) Drury Lane’s production is a more modernized take, and works off the newer book completed by Douglas Carter Beane for the 2013 Broadway revival. The central message of the show remains—kindness above all—but is bookended by a few new dilemmas in addition.
The prince (Jeffrey Kringer, charming with a capital “C” in this role) is fresh from university and experiencing a post-grad existential crisis. He is uninformed about the realities of his kingdom, and a visit to the town square turns into a meet-cute with Cinderella, or Ella, who stands up for the local beggar woman, Marie. Lissa deGuzman is a lovely Ella. She plays this woman thoughtfully, who, despite not having an easy life, is unbowed and imbued with a quiet strength. Ella strives for good, a difficult task considering her oppressive home life with her stepmother and two stepsisters. She gets by, in her own way, maintaining friendships with forest creatures and townspeople who include a prospective beau for her stepsister and the above-mentioned “Crazy Marie.”
The teal-hued set is gilded, and a recurring butterfly motif foreshadows the metamorphic journeys of several characters, human and beast. The ensemble is magnetic. I would regularly find my eyes glued to one particular actor or actress who caught my eye for some reason or another, focusing on them for the next few lines of a song. Ryan Michael Hamman’s Lord Pinkleton is delightful to watch, and the physical humor and gymnastics of the “Fox” and “Raccoon” (Maxel McLoud Schingen and Travis Austin Wright) are highlights.
Costuming is deeply important to this show, and Theresa Ham’s vibrant, luxe costume designs complement each performer beautifully. McKinley Carter (Marie) is resplendent in plum, Gisela Adisa’s Madame regal in jewel tones of green, and the ladies of the court dazzle in all shades of the rainbow. Director Amber Mak’s choreography is dazzling and romantic, showcasing the beauty of Ham’s costumes in motion. Onstage quick changes are so seamless that they must be magic, with transformations earning oohs and aahs from the audience on opening night.
And of course, the music. Karl Montzka conducts Richard Rodgers’ lush score, while fine-voiced performers illuminate the beauty of Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics. From the bouncy “Impossible” and “It’s Possible” to the hilarious “Stepsister’s Lament” (led by a winning Alanna Lovely), to the exquisite duets between Ella and Prince Topher, every song is a crowd-pleaser.
Drury Lane Theatre’s warm-hearted production of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” will surprise and thrill theatergoers of all ages, just like magic.
“Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, (630)530-0111, drurylanetheatre.com, $85.75-$96.25. Through January 7, 2024.