Were you following the opening night of Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway? Twitter went insane with tweets from celebrities, links to blog posts and updates about the festivities straight from the show. Fans anxiously awaited pictures from the red carpet, curtain call and the after party. And, if you’re really interested in the show’s well-being (because it may be the only reason you’re even going to New York this spring–wait, only me?), you stalked broadwayworld.com for their updates in real-time as reviews slowly started trickling out.
For those of you just interested in the magic and not the partially jaded critics reviewing it, here’s some history about the show: Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella began a made-for-television movie, and has been performed regionally for years, but the show never made it to Broadway. That means, this current production is the first time the musical has even been performed for a Broadway audience or eligible for a Tony Award. The book was edited and reworked in order to achieve a more contemporary feel and premiered at the Broadway Theatre on Sunday. In this production, Cinderella, played by Laura Osnes, is anything but a damsel in distress. With the help of her fairy godmother, Victoria Clark, she meets Prince Topher, Santino Fontana, and enlightens her beloved to the issues facing the citizens of his kingdom (Wait, what? A princess showing a prince how to do things? Hello 21st century!). Along with quirky sets that feel totally enchanted and on-stage costume changes that have you wondering where they hid David Copperfield on that stage, the famous songs that many of us grew up loving had us dancing out of the theater. It’s no wonder to us that this show had two million-dollar weeks before it even opened.
Sounds…well, like a fairy tale, right? Well, every fairy tale has a villain. And in any opening original show, the looming villain is often the critic.
At about 9 PM the first review came out. And it was a doozy. The verbose reviewer from the Chicago Tribune had very few nice things to say, going so far as to call the book “wholly unromantic and mostly laugh-free.” As for the performances, he criticizes nearly every actor with the exception of Harriet Harris who “has her moments.” He ends the review saying that Cinderella is better off staying at home than going to the ball.
Um. Wow. While I wasn’t surprised to see a bad review (it happens to every show), especially since updated, modernized scripts of “classics” are hardly ever welcomed with open arms, I did think that this particular review was an exaggeration.
However, it seemed as though the Chicago Tribune was alone in their, fair to say, complete dislike of the show. Cinderella received good reviews from The Associated Press, who raved about the book, actors, and overall had only good things to say besides their opinion that the second act dragged a little. This seemed to be a general opinion, cited also by USA Today, who gave it three and a half out of four stars, and The New York Times, who acknowledged that “Such uncertainty [in the book] may not bother the little girls in tiaras…who are the show’s target audience.”
Having watched the journey of the show, cast, and crew for months now, I was beaming with happiness by the end of the night. I feel such pride in the Broadway community, that such a beautiful show mostly succeed in the face of the often wicked stepsisters that are reviewers is an exciting feat.