Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which first enchanted TV audiences in 1957, is based on a fairy tale by Charles Perrault that has been captivating children of all ages since it was first written in 1697.
Nevertheless, when the musical was poised to make its Broadway debut in 2013, playwright Douglas Carter Beane was enlisted to give the script a makeover, injecting contemporary social issues into the timeless tale of the cruelly treated stepchild who captures the attention — and eventually wins the hand — of a charming prince.
Boca Raton’s Wick Theatre is serving up this revised and expanded Cinderella as its holiday show, clearly targeting it to young theatergoers. They were probably weaned on various Disney princess stories, judging by the numerous tiara-topped tots in the matinee audience I attended.
But even if they were familiar with the tale of the glass slipper-wearing gal and her strict midnight curfew, they were probably taken aback by the subplots on income inequality and democratic elections, albeit tongue-in-cheek. Or perhaps their visible fidgeting was due to the production’s kid-unfriendly two-and-a-half-hour running time.
Adults, on the other hand, are likely to be captivated by this cobwebs-dusted narrative, by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s transporting score — “In My Own Little Corner,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” are some of the standout songs — and by the theatrical magic in some of Travis Grant’s transformational costumes.
Early on, shabbily clad Ella (Mallory Newbrough or Daniella Mass, who alternate in the role) happens to meet Prince Topher (Elliot Mahon), little knowing that they are destined to be romantically entwined with one another. Ella is virtually a slave to her cranky, status-seeking stepmother Madame (Angie Radosh), who favors her ungainly (Britt Steel) and dithery (Whitney Grace) daughters from her first marriage, pushing them to attend a ball thrown for the prince so he can meet and select a bride.
Of course, he becomes smitten with Ella, who shows up decked out in a gorgeous gown, thanks to her Fairy Godmother (Aaron Bower), previously known as Crazy Marie, a mentally unstable hag only Ella had befriended. In a flash, Ella changes from her usual rags to high fashion duds. She and the prince dance the night away — swoon-worthy choreography by Oren Korenblum — but when she runs away at the stroke of 12 and loses one of her glass slippers, Ella retrieves it before Topher can pick it up.
Alas, he then has to throw a banquet to attract her again, a redundant sequence that pads the show by an easily-edited-out 15 minutes. Eventually — spoiler alert! — she drops another shoe, is somehow the only young woman in the land with that shoe size and the two of them head to the altar, presumably for happily-ever-aftering.
Newbrough — last seen at the Wick miscast as an over-the-hill stripper in Gypsy — is far better suited to Ella. She sings like an angel, is no pushover for her stepsisters and cleans up nicely whenever she is palace-bound. Prince Topher’s role has been beefed up by Beane, and Mahon is well-suited to the added dimensions. His princely duties and the revolting peasants weigh heavily on him, but fortunately he can push those woes aside and concentrate on finding a wife.
Radosh is clearly having fun as the cartoonishly crabby stepmom and Aaron Bower handles the godmother chores, including the 11 o’clock high-note heavy “There’s Music in You,” with aplomb.
Sean McClelland ups the Wick’s scenic quotient with palace and forest locales, supplemented by Josieu T. Jean’s reliable atmospheric projections. Grant costumes the large 25-member cast in an array of color as befits the fairy tale milieu. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella makes a worthy holiday outing for the whole family, though if you are bringing youngsters with you, a nap beforehand would be advisable.
CINDERELLA, The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Saturday., Dec. 24. $89-$99. Call 561-995-2333 or visit thewick.org.