Two solid TUTS productions
Andrew Cownden and Paige Fraser in Theatre Under the Stars’ production of 42nd Street. (photo by Lindsay Elliott Photography)
The gasp of surprise and awe came from the row behind. “The glass slippers,” whispered the gown-clad girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old, when Cinderella received her infamous footwear from Fairy Godmother in Theatre Under the Stars’ production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella on opening night.
Directed by Sarah Rodgers, this social justice-infused version of the tale (with book by Douglas Carter Beane) seemed to resonate with the younger audience members, even though it was understated. The pace was on the slower side, the music beautiful but not that memorable and the costumes by Christina Sinosich were a mixed bag of styles but all earthy in tone, with no flash or brilliant pops of colour. Cinderella sported a pale blue and white dress in her harsh life with her stepmom and two mean stepsisters (though one turns out to be pretty nice) and a mainly white ball gown, with some silver and blue accents. Prince Topher’s outfits were basically brown or black, with the exception of white formal wear, though they also had some fancy detail work.
The cast performed admirably, especially Mallory James as the heroine, Ella. Tré Cotten seemed a little less sure in his role as Topher, but was suitably dashing and princely, wanting more than a beautiful woman for his wife and wanting to be more than just a ruling figurehead. The revolutionary Jean-Michel, played by Daniel Curalli, and the not-so-evil stepsister Gabrielle, played by Vanessa Merenda, add interesting elements to the play for those who’ve only seen the less substantive (story- and character-wise) romantic version. And the ensemble, in which Jewish community member Lyrie Murad sees her TUTS debut, does a fine job.
Alternating with Cinderella on the Malkin Bowl stage is 42nd Street, which, despite its Depression-era story, costumes and set, is an uplifting, energetic and fun production.
The role of Broadway producer Julian Marsh seems to have been written for Andrew Cownden, and Paige Fraser – making a very strong TUTS debut – is perfect as Broadway ingénue Peggy Sawyer. While the entire cast and ensemble is great, Colin Humphrey as choreographer/dance leader Andy Lee is fantastic, cigarette hanging out of his mouth for much of the show, even when putting the chorus through its paces. And, ironically, Janet Gigliotti as fading star Dorothy Brock is probably the brightest light of this show.
The direction by Robert McQueen, the choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt, the musical direction (and acting) of Christopher King, the set by Brian Ball, the costumes by Sinosich, etc., etc., all come together neatly in this production.
For tickets to both Cinderella and 42nd Street, visit tuts.ca.