Presented by the Foothill Music Theatre at the Smithwick Theatre, Los Altos Hills
When Milissa Carey (Director), opened the evening, the audience quickly picked up the spark of energy and positivity that reflected perfectly what would follow: A musical that spreads happiness, joy and hope.
One moment later, we are taken into the world of Cinderella who lives, together with her two stepsisters and her stepmother who does everything to make her life miserable. While the story essentially remains the one we know, the contemporary interpretation, based on the book of Douglas Carter Beane, adds a wonderfully integrated, political comedy element to it. Every fairytale teaches a lesson. This musical teaches more than one.
First there is Jean-Michel (Jomar Martinez), a rebel peasant who is eager to change the conditions for the lower class in his country. He is deeply in love with Gabrielle, much to the outrage of the Madame (Jasmine Johnson) who would rather prefer her daughter to marry wealthy and according to status. We are told that love, however, does not care about status and money and Gabrielle in the end, stays together with Jean-Michel while Cinderella marries prince Topher (Edward Clark).
Then, there is the powerful song “Impossible”, performed by Angela Ceseña in the role of the fairy godmother. It encourages us to follow our hopes and dreams despite existing barriers which may impose them. Between the lines, the song states that with our imagination, we can do magic. “Impossible things are happening every day” because of “zanies and fools” who believe, a message that seems especially true here in Silicon Valley.
Third, we learn that kindness is greater than social cruelty when during the ball, Cinderella turns the social discrediting game into a game of kindness in which everyone wins. Forgiveness is one of the first step to overcome a winner-looser society, and therefore, Cinderella forgives her stepmother all unfairness and hate she imposed on her in the past.
Finally, the musical also takes a political stance, in favor of democracy. Prince Topher, overwhelmed with the task to lead his kingdom, decides to hold elections after speaking to the people of his land and nominates Jean-Michel as a candidate for the prime minister duty.
Christina Lea starring Cinderella enchants with her brilliant voice and performance. Melissa Gialdini and Gwyneth Forrester shine in the roles of Gabrielle and Charlotte. Together in a trio with Christina Lea, they add an additional highlight to the evening.
The playful fairytale scenery is complemented by colorful costumes and simple, yet charming details like hand-puppets. It therefore steps aways from some minimalistic, new musical stage productions in exchange for a full immersion into a children’s dream, princess world. A highlight are the magical stage transformations, that turn Cinderella’s dress into a ball gown, the pumpkin into a carriage and the animals into carriage drivers. The ensemble as dancing village inhabitants with the waving skirts in red, blue, green and yellow color create a feel-good atmosphere almost to the point when one wishes to join into the dance.
Overall, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella offers a magical, high-energy fairy-tale experience for people of all ages. My seat neighbor expressed afterwards what everybody felt: “This was just fantastic. It really made me happy”.