Serious theatergoers might be tempted to pass up the production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Madison Square Garden, thinking it’s a kidfest in which the show is brought down to the level of a five-year-old. But take another glance: Eartha Kitt is playing the Fairy Godmother. And who’s playing the wicked stepmother? Everett Quinton of Ridiculous Theatrical Company fame–in drag, of course.

The director of the show is Gabriel Barre, who last season directed The Wild Party for Manhattan Theatre Club. Speaking of which, the musical supervision and arrangements of this Cinderella are by the talented fellow who wrote the words and music of the MTC Wild Party, Andrew Lippa. So if you thought it “Impossible” that this show could appeal to you, think again. “The sweetest sounds you’ll ever hear are waiting to be said” by these critics. Cinderella is a princess of a show. And what a score!

Adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs from the teleplay by Robert L. Freedman, this Rodgers & Hammerstein production is a show for the young and innocent–or for the retro-innocent who would like to return to that exalted state for a couple of hours. Either way, the musical works, although you will have to deal with being surrounded by noisy children who yelp when the Prince kisses Cinderella. (Are we giving away too much of the plot?). The dialogue of this Cinderella has been spruced up to make it a bit more hip, and it works without undercutting the fairy tale romanticism of the story. Suffice it to say that Eartha Kitt is not declawed as the Fairy Godmother!

In fact, Kitt is fantastic in the role. The woman has incalculable presence. When she sings, she commands the stage, and when she cavorts, you can’t see anyone or anything but her. We’re tempted to say that what she does as a performer is amazing at her age…but it would be amazing at any age.

Happily, though, Eartha Kitt is not the whole show. Jamie-Lynn Sigler is a winning Cinderella. In a role that is usually the least interesting in the show–after all, the girl is written as something of a simp–Sigler manages to be both vulnerable and feisty at the same time. She is also

Paolo Montalban and Jamie-Lynn Sigler in Cinderella
Paolo Montalban and Jamie-Lynn Sigler
in Cinderella

quite charming and possesses a warm, endearing voice. The Prince, as played by Paolo Montalban, is bland; but Everett Quinton’s Stepmother is comically brittle, and the two actresses who play her daughters, NaTasha Yvette Williams and Alexandra Kolb, are deliciously doltish. With a modern sense of humor and sharp comic timing, Victor Trent Cook steals every scene he’s in as Lionel, the royal’s right hand man.

Presented at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, this Radio City Entertainment production is a spectacular show with colorful costumes by Pamela Scofield, engagingly cartoonish sets by James Youmans, and splashes of smart lighting by Tim Hunter. The choreography of Ken Roberson is hardly groundbreaking, but it has sweep and style, while Gabriel Barre’s direction displays a light touch and a sense of humor. The result is a sweet show with a lovely score, winningly performed.

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Closed: May 13, 2001