Princesses of all ages, in their best party dresses, some wearing tiaras and carrying magic wands, showed up in Denver last week to see their favorite fairy tale, Cinderella. Lest those awash in popular culture continue believing that the definitive story is represented by the Disney version, let it be said that variations of Cinderella can be found in dozens of cultures dating back hundreds of years. One of the most popular versions of this fairy tale is the creation written by Rogers and Hammerstein for CBS in 1957, the stage revival of which is now playing at the Buell Theatre.
In creating the book for Cinderella, Oscar Hammerstein II set out to de-emphasize the 'fairy' aspect of the godmother and present her as a matter-of-fact woman with a sense of humor whose magical powers are incidental. Eartha Kitt, who headlines this road show, has no trouble with the no-nonsense part of this equation, though the truth be told, she can't resist being the center of attention. In fact, Kitt's glamorous outfit and larger-than-life personality upstages Deborah Gibson, the former teen pop-star turned musical theatre success, who fills the title role.
Gibson plays the rags-to-riches girl as a simple country lass with a plain dialect, a good heart and endless patience for her overbearing and odious step-mother and step-sisters. Given the fact that Cinderella's father had money, an more eloquent Cinderella would have been a natural match for the well-spoken, thoughtful and handsome Prince, the suave Paolo Montalban. As it is, Cinderella's unspoiled character and physical beauty are enough to catch the Prince's attention, even if old stereotypes go unchallenged.
Both Gibson and Montalban sing well and present believable characters that hold out hope for a change in their lives. The supporting cast is filled with humorous portrayals including Everett Quinton in drag as the insufferable stepmother, Ken Prymus and Leslie Becker as the endearing royal parents, and Victor Trent Cook as the comical castle steward.
With costumes and sets right out of a Technicolor fantasia, a talented multi-cultural cast, and adorable Balinese style puppets on sticks cuddling up to our heroine, this production of Cinderella is a pleasing, if middle-of-the-road, rendition of the age old wish to be relieved of our toils and be whisked away to a carefree life of luxury and true love. It runs through August 12th. 303-893-4100.