If you ever thought to yourself, “This Sara person was probably the type of kid who sang ‘In My Own Little Corner’ to herself in her shared bedroom on a regular basis,” you’d be 1000% correct. (Extra points if you envisioned my more attention-grabbing sisters singing “Stepsisters’ Lament” into their hairbrushes a few feet away).
Seeing Cinderella as an *cough* adult *cough* came with its own set of clashing thoughts and emotions. On the one hand, there’s that nostalgia-inducing wonder that craves spectacle, enchantment, fairytale love, and pretty dresses. On the other hand, there’s that disillusionment that accompanies post-college life, the notion that the nostalgia-inducing wonder is actually naivete in disguise. It’s the kind of sentiment that makes you incorporate words like “hegemony” into your everyday conversation or say things like, “You know, I read an essay by (insert feminist writer) that said…” while your friends and family groan under their breaths. Plus, there’s also the fact that Cinderella isn’t exactly the type of avant-garde theater that a smartypants faux-academic like myself pretends to only care about. It’s a bit like watching the Oscars Red Carpet for two hours instead of actually watching an actual Oscar-nominated movie (guilty).
It was with these conflicting emotions that I entered the innovatively named Broadway Theater. I didn’t quite know what to expect, how to expect it, and what this whole expecting thing was worth in the first place. By the end of the show, however, my clashing instincts were miraculously resolved, and with teary eyes and romanticized notions, I emerged from the crowds of little girls dressed like princesses really pretty freakin’ great. Here’s why:
1) IT’S MAGIC, YOU GUYS!
Fairytales come with plenty of creative production needs and Cinderella goes above and beyond to meet them. There are gorgeous sets, ostentatious costumes, and some weird green giant who is nonetheless pretty awesome. But let’s fast forward a bit to the part where magic actual happens. Cinderella’s (Laura Osnes) transformation from servant to princess is flawless. This is due to lots of production factors including some super creative costuming, the best horse and carriage ever, and the fact that Victoria Clark is a boss. Blending the magic all together is some fantastic choreography involving a fox, a raccoon, and strategically placed forest props.
2) ADULT CONTENT! WARNI… No, Not Really.
Much talk has been made of the musical’s new book, written by Douglas Carter Beane. It’s edgy. It’s political. It’s relevant. In other words, it’s not classic Cinderella. Now, the inclusion of a democracy vs. monarchy mash-up was fun and unique, but felt sometimes contrived and out of place. Greg Hildreth makes for an adorable revolutionary leader, but soon we become much more interested in his budding love-life than in his political ambitions.
What is more endearing, however, is the musical’s new approach to Prince
Charming Topher (Santino Fontana). Beane turns the blandest prince in Disney history into a charismatic, intriguing, and purely lovable character whose impending adulthood has made him anxious and disillusioned with his current position of false power (sounds like someone I know…). Fontana has the best opening line in the play– as he heroically and triumphantly defeats the aforementioned green giant thing, Prince Topher announces proudly yet candidly, “I just wish I were doing something more important with my life!” Also, Topher has as much at stake in his romance with Cinderella as she. Cinderella brings purpose into his life as much as he brings an escape from her servitude to her. The tale’s magic is just as necessary for Cinderella to escape her situation as for Topher to realize his. Could it be that Topher is that side of us that have fallen out of love with fairytales, needing a little magic to wake us up to our true purpose?
3) THE CHILDREN
Usually kids at a show feels a bit like getting seated in front of that one kicking/crying child in an airplane. This time around, however, the kids added to the magical, cynicism-dissolving quality of the show. One girl seated behind me gasped happily when Cinderella revealed her true self to Prince Topher, making the moment all the more special. Every child there was completely entranced in something positive and self-realizing, with strong themes of possibility, progress, and self-actualization. It shows that fairytales do much more than distract us from life problems… they also show us how to confront them.