BY Iride Aparicio

Photo © Carol Rosegg
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The adults and children filling every seat of the Orpheum Theatre on the  opening night of the S.F. premiere of the 2013 Tony® Award-winning RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN  musical “CINDERELLA,” and the several minutes long standing ovation at the end of the show, demonstrated that in this city, we still love fairy tales.

The original CINDERELLA was written with the name of  “Cendrillon”  by Frenchman CHARLES PERRAULT (l628-l703) a member of the French Academy, and the writer who laid the foundations of what is now the Fairy Tale genre.  Since then, with the name of Cinderella, and in slightly different versions, the story  has been told many times, in different countries and in different languages. It has been printed in many books, represented on the stage,  projected in movies, sung as an opera and danced as a ballet.

There is “something” in the simple story of a kind orphan young girl who is now living in his late father’s house with his step mother and two step sisters working as their maid and forced to sleep close to the stove to keep warm (in spite that it covers her with cinders, which is the reason why they call her Cinder-Ella,) that appeals to everyone.

L-R Madame (BLAIR ROSS) and daughters gabrielle (KIMBERLY FAURÉ) and  Charlotte (LULU PICART) and standing on the right, Ella (KAITLYN DAVIDSON)

Perhaps one of the reasons that attract people to this story is that its plot is based on “Poetic Justice.” The bad people are punished and the good rewarded.  We also feel immediately attracted to the main character, (called Ella, in the musical) because she remains good, and kind in spite of being constantly mistreated by her family.

Yet, perhaps what is most appealing in this story is that it shows us that we   can make our dreams come true and encourages us to believe in the impossible. In “CINDERELLA” the musical, we actually see the impossible become possible, with the help of Marie (LAUREN SPRAGUE) the Fairy, who has the magic to convert a pumpkin into a carriage and the furry-animals in horses, and all Ella's dreams into reality.

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In this production, however, in his designing of Ella’s  Costumes designer (WILLIAM IVEY LONG) actually accomplished the impossible also, when he designed Ella’s dresses that can change from rags, into a beautiful ball gowns in  seconds. We also could add that Set Designer ANNA LOUIZOS' sets were also "magical" and could transport us (vicariously)  from the forest, to Ella’s home to the Prince’s palace, in seconds.

In this production, the story version of  CINDERELLA varies a little from the story told on a Disney’s movie. that is better known to all of us. It adds a new character, and by adding a new character, Jean-Michel (DAVID ANDINO) a young activist that defends the poor people in the kingdom from the injustices of the King,  the drama gives three-dimensionality not only to the character of the  prince (ANDY HUNTINGTON JONES)  but to the character of Ella, (DAVIDSON) who convinces the future King that things need to be changed in his kingdom.

Interesting also in this story is that it shows less hatred between Ella and her step sisters.  She and Gabrielle (FAURÉ) are even close enough to each other, to keep “secrets.” Another difference in the story, is that to find his bride, the Prince holds twp events in his palace: a ball and a banquet, and that Ella, hoping for him to find her, leaves her slipper on the castle's steps the second time.

Because each one of the actors plays his or her role well, the musical moves seamlessly from beginning to end. All the songs are well-vocalized and are sung in good voices and with feeling. There were some that deserved mentioning: “In my own little corner” sung by Ella, “Me, who I am?” by prince Thoper, “It is Possible” in a beautiful duet by Ella and Marie “Step sisters lament” by Charlotte (& ladies of the court) and “Do I love you because your beautiful?” by Thoper.  We should add that HUNTINGTON JONES, as Thoper the prince, represented his Royal role with conviction sang each one of his songs with feelings in a soft mellow tone. Because both Both Ella and Marie also have good quality voices to listen to the songs in the musical was delightful. 

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While we all are familiar with the story of CINDERELLA, something on this particular night, was extraordinary. The audience watched the show in complete silence, enraptured with the music (RICHARD RODGERS) the Lyrics (OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN) the  dancing, the colorful costumes and the acting , which was superb. On that night, we could almost feel the “magic” in the story transcending to the audience.

It was an overpowering feeling, as if the story, evolving before our eyes, had managed to transport us back  to the time we were children and believed in the Fairy tales where the heroines always found a “prince.” And after they fell in love with each other and kissed, we knew exactly what will happen: And they got married, and lived happily ever after.”