The world is full of zanies and fools
Who don't believe in sensible rules
And won't believe what sensible people say.
And because these daft and dewey-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes,
Impossible things are happening every day.
Impossible! To take a warhorse like Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella and update it to appeal to a modern audience without losing any of the fairy tale magic? It is possible, at least according to the evidence onstage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre.
The audience for Cinderella would have been content with a rote retelling and a heaping helping of the Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic songs. We got all that plus a clever, funny spin that contained political commentary, gender parity and some great one-liners that spun the lavish proceedings into a giddy froth with just enough bite to make the sugar go down easily. Much credit goes to the revised book by Douglas Carter Beane who ably solves the feminist problem of the pursuit of a handsome prince as an end in itself (just a no go in a post-Frozen world).
Beane was responsible for the camptastic stage version of Xanadu!, the gay-themed drama The Little Dog Laughed, the screenplay for To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, and the flourishes in Sister Act. He is also the recipient of numerous GLAAD awards. Who knew that Cinderella would benefit so greatly for a little sprinkling of gay sensibility? Possible! Beane is this production's fairy godmother.
The first half sprints along with the additions and revisions blending seamlessly with the gorgeous songs and voices. When, in the first few minutes, the handsome prince handily defeats a '50s b-movie space alien, we realize we aren't in a classical rendition, but we are in very good hands. Surprisingly the addition of a Che Guevara stand-in as a new love interest and an evil stepmother with the mouth of a drag queen, do nothing to detract, in fact they add to, the magic. When the handsome prince and Cinderella embrace at the ball while "Ten Minutes Ago" swells, there was not a dry eye in the house.
Kaitlyn Davidson is a spunky Cinderella, all lithe dance moves, crafty costume changes and clear soprano. However she doesn't stand a chance against Blair Ross's imperious but oddly touching evil stepmother, or Liz McCartney's scene-stealing fairy godmother with a powerhouse voice. The stepsisters get to shine as well with Aymee Garcia strutting her way through "Stepsister's Lament" and Kimberley Fauré discovering her conscience and the sexual possibilities of "ladling" in the arms of antic activist David Andino.
Andy Huntington Jones is a suitably handsome handsome prince and his crisis of identity becomes as suspenseful as Cinderella's quest. His luscious falsetto is used to sterling effect to make him a modern human being rather than a door prize. He is very charming.
The second half suffers slightly from a disconnect between the songs and the new book but, despite a few odd staging choices and lacklustre choreography, it moves quickly and the romance is rapturous. It is "Impossible!" to approach a show with such a lengthy history and problematic politics without a certain amount of jaded critical thinking, but this Cinderella sweeps that away in a swirl of light comedy, satirical jibes and enveloping music. A family show you can enjoy even without children? Possible.
Cinderella runs until Sun, Jan 10 at The Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. mirvish.com