Snark and wit abound in opening night of ‘Cinderella’

The first thing you should know before seeing Cinderella, playing October 13-18 at the Orpheum and touring nationally, is that is an entirely different creation than the one you grew up with.

Some twists have been added, various characters have been fleshed out, and many iconic moments have been deleted. This both works and doesn’t work, but when the show gets it right the results are pretty brilliant. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Tuesday night’s opening performance was damn near sold out and as the Orpheum’s (soon-to-be retiring) CEO Pat Halloran noted, “There are plenty of princesses in the audience tonight.” For such a large crowd, the first act was met with a very quiet response. This was surprising, given just how hard Cinderella’s cast was working for the audience’s love. Choreography was intense and the actors gave their lines with punch and prominence, but the audience seemed confused; puzzled, even.

While many of the original Roger’s and Hammerstein’s songs are still there, the contexts in which they appear are a bit more unexpected. Think a Madonna concert where she performs “Material Girl” as a jazz number. You weren’t expecting it, but hey, here it is! For this reason, Cinderella is very modern. As the tour’s press release notes, “this Cinderella is a contemporary figure living in a fairytale setting. She is a spirited young woman with savvy and soul who doesn’t let her rags or her gowns trip her up in her quest for kindness, compassion and forgiveness.”

Cinderella tries hard to connect with a new generation of viewers. There is a modern take on political progressiveness found in the unnecessary character Jean-Michael, as portrayed by Will Blum. To Blum’s credit, he makes the character as funny as possible, but it’s not hard to wonder how enjoyable the show would be without this addition.

But see, these additions and deletions are what the show builds on. Cinderella does not (spoiler alert) leave her glass slipper for the Prince to find–she gives it to him.  Cinderella controls her destiny. The show, with all of it’s old fashioned charm, wants to champion the ever-present message of self-empowerment, and self-love. Of course, no one who sees Cinderella this week will be going for the politics or message. They will be going for the scenery (incredible), the costumes (also breathtaking), and the songs (“Ten Minutes Ago” being the best).

Cinderella is played perfectly adequately and earnestly by Kaitlyn Davidson. She’s sweet, charming and has the perfect octave range in her voice. What she is not, is unexpected or full of surprises. Davidson’s Cinderella is exactly what you’d expect: sweet to a fault, and inevitably vanilla. Fairing better is Prince Topher, played with gusto and boyish charm by Andy Huntington Jones (check out our fab interview here). Topher is one of a few characters who becomes more fleshed out as the play continues. He is a prince unsure of his place in life, and who blindly follows everyone’s orders without listening to hsi gut. As Jones told me earlier this week, Cinderella and Topher are “good for each other” because they bring out the best qualities in the other.

The true star of the show, and one you should not miss, is Paige Williams. Williams steps into the role of Madame with such fierceness and glee that being mean has never looked so fun. She’s loud, crass, and rude but entirely captivating to watch. Williams perfectly embodies the camp of Cinderella in a way that a less capable actor would fail at.

In many moments Cinderella soars high: the transformation from rags to glamour is stunning to watch. Just as mesmerizing is the horse drawn carriage, used to transport Cinderella to the ball, doused in glitter. For a moment I was unsure of whether I was at a Broadway show or watching Kylie Minogue perform “I Believe in You”–but I loved it.

As snarky as Cinderella is, the show works best when it delivers what the audience came for: gorgeous music and miraculous costume designs. The show’s standout moment, when Cinderella finally transforms, is a brief moment of what dreams are made of: glitter, magic and a little bit of make-believe.

Cinderella closes THIS WEEK so get your tickets soon!

DATES: October 13 – 18, 2015

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015  7:30 PM
  • Wednesday, October 14, 2015  7:30 PM
  • Thursday, October 15, 2015  7:30 PM
  • Friday, October 16, 2015  8:00 PM
  • Saturday, October 17, 2015  2:00 PM
  • Saturday, October 17, 2015  8:00 PM
  • Sunday, October 18, 2015  1:00 PM
  • Sunday, October 18, 2015  6:30 PM

TICKETS: $25 – $125

BOX OFFICE: 901.525.3000

GROUP SALES: 901.529.4226

WEB: www.orpheum-memphis.com

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