The Column Online



Rodgers & Hammerstein
New Book by Douglas Carter Beane

Bass Hall, Fort Worth

Music Director – Ryan Sigurdson
Production Stage Manager – Nick Voight
Assistant Stage Manager – Rachel Hamilton
Original Broadway Director – Mark Brokaw
Tour Director – Gina Rattan
Original Broadway Choreographer – Josh Rhodes
Tour Choreographer – Lee Wilkins
Music Supervisor – Greg Anthony Rassen
Original Orchestrations – Danny Troob
Tour Orchestrations – Bill Elliott
Music Adaptation and Arrangements – David Chase
Set Designer – Anna Louizos
Costume Designer – William Ivey Long
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Posner
Sound Designer – Nevin Steinberg
Hair/Wig Designer – Paul Huntley

Ella - Kaitlyn Mayse
Woodland Creature – Kaylene Snarsky, Beth Anderson
Topher – Lukas James Miller
Marie – Zina Ellis
Madame – Sarah Smith
Lord Pinkleton – Carlos Morales
Jean-Michel, Ensemble – Nic Casaula
Gabrielle – Natalie Girard
Charlotte – Joanna Johnson
Sebastian – Christopher Swan
Ensemble – Layla Ali
Ensemble – Beth Anderson
Ensemble – Emily Applebaum
Ensemble – John Barsoian
Swing – Kyle Caress
Ensemble – Maxwell Carmel
Footman, Ensemble – Tyler Eisenreich
Ensemble – Marissa Levesque
Driver, Ensemble – Gage Martin
Ensemble - Mandy McDonell
Swing – Erica Messonnier
Ensemble – Schuyler Midgett
Dance Captain, Swing – Victoria Newhuis
Swing – John Peterson
Ensemble – Gray Randolph
Ensemble – Kaylene Snarsky

Reviewed Performance: 11/15/2018

Reviewed by Kathleen Morgan, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

When I saw an advertisement that said this production of Cinderella would have a “twist,” I was ambivalent. This is Cinderella we’re talking about- why mess with a classic? Why interfere with Rodgers & Hammerstein, two of the greats? But after the first few songs and dance numbers, I couldn’t help but think of the show as utterly refreshing. Cinderella at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall had full elements of humor, tender romance, female empowerment, and even a little bit of magic.

The original Cinderella musical first made its appearance on television in 1957 starring Julie Andrews and Jon Cypher, making it the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that was made for television. It was re-made for television twice more, in 1965 and 1997. Although various stage adaptations were made throughout the years, the 2013 adaptation on Broadway implemented a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, which is the same used in this production. This new book includes new songs (and others written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, though not necessarily present in previous versions of Cinderella), more dynamic characters, and quite a bit of humor.

One of the new numbers in this show was Prince Topher’s “Me, Who am I?” where the Prince wonders about the kind of person he is, what’s important to him, and how he struggles to reconcile his responsibilities with his inexperience. Not only did this song give the classic “Prince Charming” a refreshing personality, but it simultaneously flowed with and juxtaposed the next song, Cinderella’s, “In My Own Little Corner.” Prince Topher asks, “Who am I?” and Cinderella responds, “I can be whoever I want to be.” Although the Prince needs help finding himself, and Cinderella needs help believing in herself, the two find that help in each other along the way.

Cinderella, or simply “Ella,” was played by the lovely Kaitlyn Mayse. She fully captured Cinderella’s classic winsome and earnest attitude, her frustration at her state in life, as well as her enchanting imagination. Her soprano voice was beautiful and flawless, captivating the audience with each new song. Mayse’s Cinderella was stronger and more confident than I remember the character in my youth. One of her most captivating moments was while describing the people she becomes in her imagination (“In My Own Little Corner,”) making the audience feel as though we were right there with her on her African safari! Naturally, Cinderella still had moments of despair and doubt (“Impossible/ It’s Possible”) but she also displayed a penchant for social justice and helping her friends and community no matter the cost. Mayse danced with agility in energetic numbers with the townspeople as well as in her waltz with the Prince. Furthermore, Mayse transitioned seamlessly from being an earnest do-gooder to being romantically swept off her feet by Prince Topher, without sacrificing anything that would have made her performance less believable.

Lukas James Miller’s Prince Topher wasn’t your Dad’s Prince Charming- no longer the empty suit as with fairy tale princes of old, Miller’s character was sensitive, nuanced, and bold. In the old Cinderella, Ella left her wretched state once she won the Prince’s favor. Now, the two come into their own only when they fight for something: Each other, and the good of the kingdom. Miller excelled at capturing the transition of Topher’s boyish indecision and blissful ignorance into that of a confident young man who takes matters into his own hands. He displayed a peppy energy during early numbers (“Me, Who am I?”) and sensitive, vulnerable admiration in “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” Throughout the show, Topher comes into his own. He relies heavily on his advisor, Sebastian, because he is and allows himself to be sheltered from the harsh realities facing his subjects. But what he lacks in awareness, he makes up for in dogged determination once Cinderella shares with him the reality of his people’s situation. Miller’s and Mayse’s stage chemistry was a beautiful thing to witness, especially throughout the number “Ten Minutes Ago, I Met You.” As with their characters, these actors truly bring out the best in each other.

Having a voice that was simultaneously more powerful and yet somehow more delicate than all the rest, Zina Ellis stole the show as Marie/The Fairy Godmother. Although I never got a strong impression that she was crazy (despite Cinderella often referring to her as such), that didn’t matter once her true identity was revealed. Throughout “Impossible/It’s Possible,” she imbued within Cinderella the belief that she could go out and be who she wanted to be, sparking wonder and determination in her. Her interactions with Cinderella were full of firmness and gentleness that anyone would expect to see from their own Godmother. Every time Ellis sang, she had the whole audience under her spell.

Madame and the stepsisters, Charlotte and Gabrielle, brought comedic relief to the show with their absurdism. Completely obsessed with social status, wealth, and class, Madame (Sarah Smith) and Charlotte (Joanna Johnson) are mean and selfish to the core. Bringing yet another refreshing element to the show, Gabrielle (Natalie Girard) is revealed to be sensitive and kind- although she initially hides that from her mother. Madame’s nastiness is highlighted each time she plays “Ridicule” – an apparently popular game in this kingdom that is solely comprised of insulting others. Smith’s character sinks to a new low during a scene where she rips Cinderella’s garments off her body, leaving her in tatters. Of course, the sour taste Madame leaves in your mouth only means that Sarah Smith captured this wretched woman perfectly. Johnson’s character, Charlotte, can best be described as a Madame-in-waiting. She was just as cruel and selfish as her mother, but perhaps less clever and more obvious about her selfish ambitions. Johnson led the female ensemble through a truly hilarious rendition of “Stepsister’s Lament,” where they asked the eternal question- What’s the matter with the man? Her belting voice echoed clear across the stage each time she spoke, bringing a commanding air to this unappetizing character.

The second stepsister, though not evil, was Gabrielle- a sensitive and passionate young woman who shows sympathy to Cinderella and who pines after the town rabble-rouser and social justice warrior, Jean-Michel. Although goofy at times, she begins the show as submissive to her mother, but later finally stirs the courage to be with the man she loves. Cinderella, Madame, and the stepsisters charmed the audience with the spirited, female-centric number, “A Lovely Night,” – the only part of the show where Madame ceases her torrent of cruelty towards Cinderella.

Gabrielle’s beau, Jean-Michel, was played by Nic Casaula. From start to finish, he is set out to help the less fortunate people in the kingdom. Although details of the government’s misdeeds are never explained in full, it is clear that Prince Topher’s advisor, Sebastian, is behind it all. Casaula never let his passion- for either social justice or Gabrielle- waver. Although he is a high-strung character, his sensitive side was revealed in scenes with Gabrielle. The secretly insidious Sebastian was portrayed by Christopher Swan. Like Madame, he was cruel and selfish- but so hilarious in his delivery that it was hard to think of him as an evil character. Swan’s diction, delivery of his lines, and even the way he’d wave his hands about all contributed to how captivated the audience was with his character. He excelled at playing coy around the Prince, pretending to have his best interests in mind, while actually implementing his own self-serving will in secret.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Lord Pinkleton, played by Carlos Morales. This servant of the kingdom announced the royal ball in, “The Prince is Giving a Ball.” Though a minor character, he managed to preserve a playful personality with his commanding voice throughout his many rounds of royal decrees.

As wonderful and talented as the principals were, Cinderella’s ensemble brought new life into this show (Kaylene Snarsky, Beth Anderson, Nic Casaula, Layla Ali, Emily Applebaum, John Barsoian, Kyle Caress, Maxwell Carmel, Tyler Eisenreich, Marissa Levesque, Gage Martin, Mandy McDonell, Erica Messonnier, Schuyler Midgett, Victoria Newhuis, John Peterson, Gray Randolph). The male ensemble displayed an impressive show of acrobatics during an early scene where they are attempting to slay a beast, dressed in shining armor as royal soldiers. The female ensemble thrilled the audience in a sassy display throughout, “Stepsister’s Lament,” as high ladies of the court, sore about being rejected by the Prince. As townspeople in “The Prince is Giving a Ball,” the ensemble had tremendous energy, excitement, and their dance steps were quick and lively. In the high-society ballroom scenes, they practically floated around the set, so light and graceful were their steps. Although Prince Topher and Cinderella were the focal point of some of those scenes, the ensemble’s delicate movements set the tone and atmosphere every bit as much as the lights and scenery did.

“Magnificent” does not begin to do the costumes (let alone the costume changes) justice. Crazy Marie’s transformation into the Fairy Godmother (or rather, her disheveled appearance unravelling into her resplendent one) was jaw-dropping, as her green and brown rags disappeared under a tumble of lavender taffeta. Cinderella’s several costume changes were even more magical, with at least 3 on-stage back-and-forth transitions from “country bumpkin” to regal beauty (I’ve spent quite a bit of mental energy trying to work out how the tiara arrived on her head, to no avail). As becoming as her full white gown was, her second, golden gown was mesmerizing. The costumes of each and every character was marvelous. Madame and the stepsisters are all dressed alike in over-the-top mauve and pink ruffles (resembling a carnival attraction, as pointed out by Jean-Michel). The townspeople wore simple outfits- bodices, skirts and shawls for the women, and “floppy hats” and puffed shirts for the men. However, each outfit is unique and colorful- dazzling in their own right. In the ballroom scenes, the ensemble women’s colorful displays are sharply contrasted with the white finery that both Cinderella and Prince Topher wear. Each layered gown is monochrome jewel-tone, creating an engaging and eye-catching display. The hair and wig design was equally wonderful to behold. Although the hair of the townspeople women was usually covered, the women of court had lovely and regal arrangements of curls piled atop their heads. Madame and the stepsisters’ hair, however, was wonderfully absurd, highlighting their ridiculous and nauseating personalities (this holds true even for Gabrielle- her hair resumes some normalcy when she leaves home, departing from the “Bavarian pretzel” shape it held during the first act).

The set of Cinderella was perfect for a fairy tale story. Scenes taking place in the woods featured panels of painted tress that were slid out of the way to make new for new set pieces. The exterior of Cinderella’s home was picturesque and reminiscent of country cottage homes, complete with a stone wall and a well. The interior of Cinderella’s home was quaint and full of everyday household items. I was pleasantly surprised at the creativity of this setting, especially a wall that at one point opened up to reveal the Fairy Godmother. Most magnificent of all were the pumpkin carriage and team of horses. Full of glitter and shining lights, these set pieces moved back and forth and side to side while Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother sang on top, with the recently transformed woodland creatures as the driver and footman in tow. This intricate movement gave the illusion of a carriage bustling along a winding path as Cinderella made her way to the ball. Once she arrived at the ball, the set was fairly simple, save for a large archway that gave the illusion of grand, high ceilings. The lighting of the show varied to serve each different scene in its own way. Bright, warm light flooded the stage during daytime scenes, and little stars appeared towards the back of the stage while the Prince was in pursuit of Cinderella at night. The lights took on a rosy hue during dance numbers with Topher and Cinderella, giving the impression of a warm, pleasant dream.

When I talk about this performance, I cannot use the word “refreshing” enough. Although “nice” Cinderella has always won out over the evil stepsisters, this performance had so much more depth to it. Cinderella won the Fairy Godmother’s gifts and blessings only because she was kind and friendly to her under the disguise of an old, “crazy person.” And although Cinderella’s garments and finery always disappeared at the stroke of midnight, this time it did so because the Fairy Godmother didn’t want to give her a chance at a new life for free. She wanted Cinderella to take her life into her own hands and work for it- to fight for her love, her friends, and her community. And of course, a happily-ever-after that includes improved lives and rights of the underprivileged is a much more satisfying and worthwhile ending than merely two people who fall in love and live in comfort for the rest of their days (although that element was of course still present). The direction of this show was so well-done: each and every scene, set and costume change flowed together seamlessly. Cinderella at the Bass Concert Hall was more dazzling, magical, and meaningful than any version I’d seen before- and I’ve seen them all. Check out this performance before it’s gone!

Bass Performance Hall
November 15th- 18th
Thursday through Sunday, 7:30pm
Saturday and Sunday, 1:30pm Matinee
Bass Performance Hall – 525 Commerce St, Fort Worth, Texas

To purchase tickets, visit the Bass Performance Hall Box Office or website
Tickets starting at $44