What: Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version of the Cinderella fairytale
When: Wednesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinées through June 23.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $18 to $39.
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available
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FORT MYERS — Move over jukebox musicals.
Take a hike rock opera.
Rodgers and Hammerstein are back in town.
"Cinderella," playing now at Broadway Palm, reminds audiences what true, lush, beautiful music and melody is - and could be. You know the story - go simply to revel in the "impossibly" good tunes.
Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics) created a string of hit musicals, including "South Pacific," "Oklahoma!" and "The King and I" during the "golden age" of musical theatre in the 1940s and 50s. Their works - unlike the whimsical, star-driven shows popular at the time - were some of the first to completely integrate song, dance and dramatic plot into a cohesive whole.
The story focuses mainly on the jaw-dropping fashion, splendid music and a fantastic sense of wish upon a star whimsy. The show also drops some of the darkness from the original fairy tale - making the Ugly Stepsisters a pair of cartoonish clowns bent more upon finding a husband than being cruel to Cinderella.
"Cinderella" was written as a musical for CBS. Julie Andrews starred in the original March 1957 broadcast. Scenes chop neatly into commercial breaks - and none feature lengthy dialogue - because the show was all about the music and the songs!
And oh, yes, the music and the songs.
Let me state this plainly. Nobody writes music like this anymore.
While the lyrics may not be Hammerstein's top-drawer material, it is impossible to sit in the theater and not be seduced by the melodies of Rodgers's music. Pick a tune from the show - any tune - and you could see the audience nodding, swaying, moving in almost rapt ecstasy.
Everything from Cinderella's lament "In My Own Little Corner" to thrilling "Impossible" to the Royal Court scenes or the heart-melting strains of "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" should remind audiences that these are the heights of what musical theater can achieve.
True, the show dates to 1957 - and reflects that. It doesn't always move with a sense of alacrity; as lovely as it was, I found it slow, even though the first act was only 55 minutes. Remember that the dialogue was written for television - and served mostly as a bridge between the songs. Director Paul Bernier does an amazing job in bringing out the emotions of the piece despite the fact the material is more than 55 years old.
Adrienne Griffiths makes an appealing, rosy-cheeked Cinderella. Her fairy tale princess brims with hope and wide-eyed wonder. You'll fall in love just by watching her swoop around the cottage swinging to the tunes of "In My Own Little Corner." Adam Clough gives dignity (and a touch of comedy) to his prince - and he's got a powerful baritone that rings through the house.
Audiences will love Kathi Osborne, Amy Marie McCleary and Shannon Connolly as the Stepmother and the Wicked Stepsisters. They're played (and costumed in clashing orange, purple and green beribboned finery) entirely for laughs. These comic actresses mug with glee, fighting over the prince, clawing like cats and snarling like a pack of Kardashians. It's the perfect touch of salty comedy amidst the sugary sweetness to make the show sing.
Look also for longtime Broadway Palm performer John Ramsey as an excitable herald; his comic touch in the "trying on the slipper scenes" delights. Ramsey also leads the show's major dance number, sprightly "The Prince is Giving a Ball" that shows off McCleary's bouncy choreography.
The set, from Christine Peters, folds and unfolds just like children's pop-up storybook. Different colors capture each space, such as gold and blue for the royal castle or pink and yellow for Cinderella's hovel. Walls flip and rotate for simple scene changes, while scrolling vines, brickwork or decorative trim covers everything, just as if the edges of the stage were the pages of an enchanting tale of far, far away.
John P. White's costumes deserve a fashion show. The clothes capture a rich, fanciful palette as if lifted from detailed illustrations. The ballroom scene features an array of ladies in jewel-toned frocks, fancy headgear and gentlemen in matching cummerbunds. The picture delights.
Broadway Palm also successfully pulls off one of the most magnificent costume sight gags in recent memory during the royal wedding scene. I absolutely don't want to spoil White's surprise - but I'll tell you that the moment (think of the most indelible image from another recent royal wedding) - brought delighted yelps and guffaws from around the theater.
Looking to escape the summer heat? Want to recall the glory days of musical theater when music was music and fairy tales did come true? Step into Cinderella's glittering pumpkin coach, pulled by four glorious white steeds and whisk away to the palace. Just remember, be home by midnight!
Glass slippers? Ha! Gimme some sandals. Email me, email@example.com.