By Jody Key – Managing Editor
I cut my teeth on Rogers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. My dad would turn on the TV to PBS every year and we’d see the 1965 version with Steven Damon and Leslie Ann Warren. The original 1957 version starred Julie Andrews and was the only R&H musical written for television. It was also remade in 1997 by Disney with Brandy Norwood as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as the fairy Godmother, bringing this iconic musical to a whole mew generation of audiences. It has since been adapted to the stage. I saw it back in the early 2000’s performed by the Albuquerque Little Theatre, and once again a few years back performed by DaVinci Academy in Hall County.
What surprised me about Aurora’s production was not the amazing performances, story book set, or dazzling costumes, but the new book adaptation with its topical resonance, quick wit, and plot twists. It was like seeing a brand new Cinderella woven together with the familiar songs of my childhood. All I can say is BRAVO, Aurora, BRAVO!!
Let’s talk about the set for a moment. Scenic artist Carley Dene Sanders’s set design resembles the pages of a story book and creates the illusion of a pop-up book on stage. It’s clever and inventive with a giant clock looming in the background enhanced by light and projections. The set is simple and yet also complex with some amazing fly-in pieces including a scrim that projects story book images before, after and during the performance.
Moving on to costumes. There are not one, not two, but THREE beautiful and creative onstage dress transformations in this show. Kudos to costume designer Alan Yeong. The pairing of the costumes with Ricardo Aponte’s award winning direction and choreography add color to the story book setting.
Now let’s move on to the performances. Every performance in this show is Key Noteworthy, but a few stand out.
First off it was so fun to see Anthony Rodriguez onstage as Sebastian, the Prince’s advisor. Any Aurora performance with Anthony on stage and music director Ann-Carol Pence leading the orchestra is a special one indeed.
India Tyree is a beautiful and powerful Cinderella. The range and genre abilities in her voice are a mix of modernism and classical styles, which match Cinderella’s longing for change and progress along with her traditional values about love egg and marriage.
Newcomer Jackson Hurt plays The Prince, and he is, indeed, quite charming. His sincerity in the role is only outmatched by his gorgeous vocals.
Candy McClellan and Marcello Audino are Aurora audience favorites, and their portrayals as Gabrielle and Jean Michelle (their names even rhyme—So sweet!) are endearing. Candy brings her special brand of humor sprinkled with compassion for her step sister, Ella, to the role. Marcello as the town’s social justice warrior echoes the role he played as Davey in Aurora’s NEWSIES a few years back. It was fun to see these two play sweet love interests as opposed to the hilarious tenant/landlord relationship they shared in MEN WITH MONEY a few year back, where Marcello’s character was forced to rub Candy’s character’s feet as rent payment. It was good to see them together once again.
Galen Crawley as Charlotte, the other step sister steals every scene she’s in on stage. I felt she was channeling her inner Kristen Chenoweth, as her hilarious performance and voice embodies the same vocal and comedic range.
Marcie Millard brings her great comedic timing to the role the role of Madame, Ella’s stepmother, and develops a character the audiences will love to hate. I enjoyed seeing her in LES MISERABLES and MAMMA MIA at Aurora, and it was great to see her once again on this spectacular new stage.
Finally, Rhyn McLemore as Marie, the town crazy lady and Ella’s Fairy Godmother has one of the most beautiful coloratura soprano voices I’ve ever heard. She is magic on stage.
This is a fun show for the adults and kids if all ages and is a Soeakeysie MUST SEE!! Get your tickets before they sell out at https://tickets.auroratheatre.com/overview/cinderella