From CINDERELLA at Cocoa Village Playhouse. Photo by Goforth Photography.
By KRISTIN SPRINGER
Executive Director Anastacia Hawkins-Smith opens the Cocoa Village Playhouse’s 30th season with a classic tale made new again. You will want to catch this splendid production of “Cinderella,” based off the updated Broadway revival (with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane but featuring the original Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II score), which declares that “all dreamers in the world are dizzy in the noodle.”
The plot twists answer the questions you never knew you had: Why does Cinderella keep the name her stepmother gave her? What is the quality that the prince most likes about her? And could the prince have found Cinderella without her glass slipper? (Of course we shan’t reveal any of those spoilers here.)“Cinderella” begins with eligible-bachelor Prince Topher (Angel Santiago, recently featured in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”), who is encouraged to take a break from slaying dragons and giants to find a bride for the merriment of the kingdom. The villagers may judge Topher as too kind to be royal and too young to rule effectively but—even though his advisors Sebastian and Lord Pinkleton (Sam Henderson and Shannon Terry) attempt to blind him to their agendas—he finds democratic counselors.
Prince Topher’s primary informant is optimistic-humanist Jean-Michel (Jason Carl Crase, recently featured in “Anything Goes”). Jean-Michel’s soapbox would appeal to Bernie Sanders yet the characterization is more that of John Stamos’ Uncle Jessie from Full House. Crase’s impassioned recitatives and tenor flourishes woo a particular maiden in a way the audience might not expect.
Our prince, of course, finds his perfect match in Cinderella (Dominique Solano, recently featured in “The Little Mermaid”). Solano presents her songs as delightfully meek (“In My Own Little Corner”) and elegant (“It’s Possible,”), aspiring to be coy and flirtatious when given the chance in “Ten Minutes Ago.” Cinderella is bullied incessantly by her aristocratic-stepmother Madame (Amy Lacy) whose “actual daughters” bring heart and comedy to the story in refreshing ways: Gabrielle (Kylee Brandon) reflects Cinderella’s kindness and romanticism while Charlotte (Victoria Narvaez) steals hefty morels of fun in “Stepsister’s Lament.”
The magic is delivered via fairy-godmother Marie (Cathy Moubray, previously featured in “Gentleman’s Guide…” and “The Secret Garden”), whose spectacular transformations are rendered by seasoned-costumer Daniel Hill. At first disguised as a vagrant hag, Moubray later reveals herself to be more of a goddess. Her inspiring aria, “There’s Music in You,” soars with expert lyricism and resonance and her appearance matches the loveliness of her voice.The enormous ensemble of over 70 performers, far larger than any current Broadway cast, rotate across the stage and through the wings with the grace of swans (choreographed by Pamela Larson). Their balletic waltzes, especially those in the castle ballroom, are a triumph of CVP’s S.T.A.R.S. program for theatrical teens and also of the graceful adults who have trained elsewhere.
The scenery (Brian Brown) balances the physical with the ephemeral: Cinderella’s home is presented traditionally as are trees in the forest and the castle steps. Lighting by Ian Cook masterfully handles the rest through a combination of rear and forward projections. They depict flying dragons, misty mountains, and a lifelike Austrian castle; another dazzling effect is achieved on Cinderella’s horses and carriage. The orchestra (conducted by Michael Law with Diane Spahr on piano) is on-hand to provide a classic overture and impeccable accompaniment to the proceedings.
Side o’Grits: “Cinderella” runs September 20th through October 6th, 2019. The Cocoa Village Playhouse is located at 300 Brevard Avenue, Cocoa, FL 32922. Individual tickets cost $21-32. Season passes run $76-$108 for any four performances remaining in the season. Call the ticket office at (321) 636-5050 of visit http://cocoavillageplayhouse.com/ for reservations.Kristin Springer is a Master Music Educator who grew up in Florida and holds a graduate degree from New York University. She offers private vocal coaching, piano & guitar lessons, Triple Talent and Music Readiness classes out of the Springer Music Studio.For a link to her studio’s Facebook page, click here.