“Cinderella” runs through January 1 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. While the fairy tale is not your typical holiday fare, it does have lots of magic and a certain element of “good girl wins big” which seems to mesh well with the hopes of children for big gifts under the tree. And critics agree, if you have a wannabe princess in your life, this is the show for her.
The cast of Cinderella at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
Two things stood out right off the bat in Nick DeGruccio’s splashy production of “Cinderella,” which opened over the weekend at St Paul’s Ordway Center. First, Cinderella, played by Jessica Fredrickson, doesn’t seem all that oppressed by her stepmom and two stepsisters. True, she gets bossed around a bit, being told to fetch this and clean that.
…Second, the fairy godmother (Tonia Hughes) who arrives in a flurry of magic to narrate the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version of the fairy tale, doesn’t fit the usual profile. She is sassy and African-American.
Yet when Fredrickson and Hughes sing, you see the wisdom of director DeGruccio’s casting choices.
Jessica Fredrickson as Cinderella and Tonia Hughes as the Fairy Godmother
Photo by Ryan Jones
Even the youngest in the audience understood that all Cinderella had to do was listen to her Fairy Godmother, played with humor and style by Tonia Hughes, and believe in herself to find her way out of her predicament. Fredrickson is delightfully natural in the role, with a powerhouse voice that seems to just float out of her. We are equally charmed by her prince (Jeremiah James), whose Sweetest Sounds is sweet indeed, with just the right mix of naiveté and determination.
The King and Queen (Gary Briggle and Wendy Lehr) delight as the loving parents in Boys and Girls Like You and Me. They are the parents every child would love to have.
At the end of the day, there are really only two questions that audiences are likely to ask of a production of “Cinderella”: Those over 40 will wonder if the show will rekindle their fond memories of the TV version that aired each holiday in their childhoods. And parents will want to know if their young daughters can dress up in their sequined dresses and tiaras and have a good time. The answers are yes and yes. Though the execution isn’t always perfect, the material is winning and the delivery is affectionate.
Have you seen Cinderella? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.