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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 49
Cinderella is pure magic
Arts & Entertainment
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Cinderella is pure magic

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Cinderella
5th Avenue Theatre
Through December 31


The lyrics only suggest that it is impossible to change a yellow pumpkin into a golden carriage, but the 5th Avenue Theatre has done it. The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic musical Cinderella is the holiday treat that the 5th Avenue has presented to Seattle, and we don't have to wait until the end of the month to open it. Filled with beautiful lyrics and familiar music that will linger in your mind, this show has something to share with every member of the family.

The tale has been told and retold for hundreds of years, but it has never been as sweetly sung as with this take by Broadway legends Rodgers and Hammerstein. The story should be quite familiar: the rags-to-riches tale of a girl abused by her stepmother and stepsisters, only to win a prince with the help of a fairy godmother. Jennifer Paz plays Cinderella and is purely delightful in the title role. Her voice is strong and sweet, especially when singing the humble song "In My Own Little Corner." She has a waifish appearance that deceives as her self-assurance starts off slow, and grows before the eyes of the audience. Broadway veteran (and newly adapted Seattleite) Kendra Kassebaum plays the Fairy Godmother with perfect charm. She moves, speaks, and sings with a grace and clarity that is easily understood, even when singing nonsense magical words. Her enchanting behavior is infectious, adding comedy and a strong presence without becoming cliché.

The Royal Steward is played by Greg McCormick Allen. His talent should be quite familiar to Seattle audiences, as this is his 20th stage production at the 5th Avenue. It is easy to see why he has become a staple of the local theater scene. Unintentionally stealing both focus and scenes right and left, this man knows how to take a role and make it his own. His performance is highly enjoyable, and we are aware of the magnitude of his stage presence whether he is leading the royal subjects in a rousing tap dance or waving away the unwanted attentions of Cinderella's stepmother with simple, effective, and highly comical gestures.

No doubt the main audience-pleasers in this show are the two wicked stepsisters: the highly talented Sarah Rudinoff plays Grace, while the Seattle darling of theatrical/cabaret drag Nick Garrison plays Joy. It is easy to see that these two are having fun. It's their sandbox, and they are two kids without boundaries. Rudinoff has a particular gift for timing and it comes through with just about everything she does on stage. She can play ballerina or butch, and finds a way to blend them perfectly to celebrate comedy.

Nick Garrison walks into a room and it's funny. His facial expressions can be read from the back row of the theater because this man knows how to project himself. From a simple gesture to an over-exaggerated hyena laugh, Nick takes control of his character, and by now his different drag personas appear with such ease it is easy to forget - at least at first - that he is a man.

The sets are done well with simple but effective staging. They add to the scene without becoming it. There are special effects with sparklers igniting and exploding when the pumpkin transforms into a golden coach, and the mice into human attendants. There is even the bonus of additional songs in this production than were in the original 1957 production. Taking their cue from the past three televised productions of the musical, each that differed slightly with the music, the 5th Avenue wisely kept the beautiful Rodgers tune "The Sweetest Sounds," a song originally written for the 1962 Broadway musical No Strings.

Cinderella is a wonderful musical present for the holiday season. No matter what age this show is sure to delight. This slipper fits, and it's pure magic.

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