There’s something within us all that occasionally yearns to be swept away into a fairy tale. Flat Rock Playhouse makes that dream possible with its musical production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Cinderella: Enchanted, showing through Sunday, July 2.
The beautiful Cinderella (played by Janae Hammond) has lost both biological parents. Now, she lives with her heinous stepmother (Chloe Fox) and two ignoramus stepsisters (Kaley Were and Kaitlyn Louise Smith) who treat her as their servant. When the prince (Xavi Soto Burgos) invites all eligible women to a ball at the castle, Cinderella is hopeful to escape her torturous life for a night of enchantment. But not if her stepmother has anything to do with it. Cinderella’s fate is left up to an unexpected visit from her fairy godmother (Ladonna Burns) to concoct a little magic.
Those perhaps too familiar with Disney’s classic animated version may notice specific deviations. Therefore, attending with a separation from such familiarity may be necessary for some. There is no “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” song, no crucial moment of a broken glass slipper and no talking mice. Here, the silent mice are portrayed via puppetry by visible actors. This decision is creative, and the dedication put in by the actors is apparent. If only they were directed to further personify their characters, this would have given the cute creatures more individuality.
The songs in this version of Cinderella: Enchanted are handled with gusto even though they are not very memorable. In fact, most seem to evaporate into thin air from one scene to the next. They just simply aren’t catchy. The exceptions are “Impossible”/Possible” and “Stepsister’s Lament,” which is one of the show’s best moments. Were and Smith are terrific at giving the stepsisters a zany portrayal. Were’s laughter bit is quite hilarious, and she nearly walks away with the production altogether. Fox is memorable, too, with her evil sashay and boldly whimsical makeup.
However, Hammond’s portrayal of Cinderella is the most surprising. The requirement to have the character be humble and meek goes without saying. Had the actress remained in this zone, as most would, it could have been a one-note caricature. The same cannot always be said of Burgos’ portrayal as the prince. He has the lovelorn part down but doesn’t push the boundaries of his performance to show inner turmoil. This hinders their chemistry at times. Nonetheless, Hammond picks up the slack to invigorate the audience with realism, modern twists and an impressive singing voice. This makes us want to know the performer behind Cinderella. Hammond should be placed on an up-and-coming actor’s list because talent like hers will not go unnoticed for long.
Watching Cinderella: Enchanted, it’s impossible not to imagine what it would be like if a magical fairy or spirit appeared to change our pathways for the better. Burns, as the fairy godmother, brings a massive amount of energy to her role. She also has exceptional vocals — in fact, everyone in the production does. This includes Scott Treadway as Lionel the royal servant, which was another dazzling surprise.
The wonderful vocals are not the only standout, as this is most certainly a costume-focused show. The colors are vivid and pulsating — so much so that Cinderella’s iconic blue dress becomes muted on the dance floor. Perhaps costume designer Ashli Crump or director Christopher Rice-Thomson had that in mind. This makes us see Cinderella for who she is inside and not what she’s wearing.
If indeed this was intentional, the decision was a thoughtful exploration of depth. This could have been further explored throughout the production. Cinderella: Enchanted is a great family vehicle, but what a daring production it would have been to create a tone of more authenticity. Regardless, the show is an explosion of joy.
Cinderella: Enchanted manages to wave a wand over us during a time when the world is filled with uncertainty. It reminds us of our youth filled with hope, comfort and the possibility of a little magic.
WHAT: Cinderella: Enchanted
WHERE: Flat Rock Playhouse, 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock, flatrockplayhouse.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, July 2. Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. $52-$72.