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North Carolina Theatre’s gala production of the 1999 “Enchanted Edition” of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, directed by Gabriel Barre and choreographed by Jennifer Paulson Lee, with musical direction by Edward G. Robinson, is a feast for the eye as well as the ear. Scenic designer Jim Youmans’ soaring storybook sets, costume designer Pamela Scofield and costumer Ann M. Brukiewitz’s fantastic outfits for the principals and the chorus, and hair/wig/makeup designer Patricia DelSordo’s coiffure and cosmetic contributions all have a distinct Oriental flavor and are a delight for children of all ages.
Lighting designer John Bartenstein and sound designer Shannon Slaton also deserve kudos for the ingenuity, and so do the creators of the eye-opening special effects — especially the pumpkin-to-coach transformation — and the cute-as-a-button mice, cat, and dove puppets that become Cinderella’s boon companions.
Paolo Montalban, who played Prince Christopher in the 1997 television movie that Tom Briggs adapted for the stage, is delightful as the handsome prince who falls head-over-heels for Cinderella (Jessica Rush), a domestic drudge whom a sympathetic Fairy Godmother (Harriet D. Foy) magically transforms into a princess-for-a-day. Montalban and Rush happily harmonize on “The Sweetest Sounds,” “Ten Minutes Ago,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” He sparkles on “Loneliness of Evening,” and she beckons the North Carolina Theatre audience to join her “In My Own Little Corner” and captures their hearts in a trice.
With her ringing renditions of “Fol-De-Rol” and “There’s Music in You,” Harriet Foy becomes a real crowd favorite as Cinderella’s funky Fairy Godmother. Jennifer Frankel and Louise Stewart are a scream as her ugly stepsisters, tall and gawky Joy, with her hideous snorting laugh, and roly-poly Grace, with her constant scratching of parts that shouldn’t be scratched in public.
C.E. Smith and Christine Hunter provide comic relief as Prince Christopher’s not-so-clueless parents King Maximillian and Queen Constantina, Stephen Schellhardt is funny as Lionel the snooty Royal Steward, and Alexa Robertson adds a heart-tugging cameo as Young Cinderella, orphaned at a tender age. But it is Everett Quinton (in husky voice, a la Bea Arthur in “Maude” and “Golden Girls,” and glorious drag) as Cinderella’s wicked Stepmother who steals the show with his outrageous antics as a conniving widow anxious for one of her two ditsy daughters to marry the kingdom’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Christopher himself.
Buoyant musical staging by director Gabriel Barre and choreographer Jennifer Paulson Lee, and energetic accompaniment by musical director/conductor by Edward G. Robinson and the 20-piece NCT orchestra, help make Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella a truly memorable evening of musical theater. Last Saturday night’s audience rewarded Cinderella’s charismatic cast and imaginative and resourceful creative team with a loud and lengthy standing ovation.
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella completes its run April 13-18 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. See our theater calendar for details.