Celebrating Cinderella (Plus Rodgers + Hammerstein, Too)

At long last, the pageantry is about to begin as Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella fills the Reynolds Hall stage tonight through Sunday. The musical is a Tony Award-winning family favorite featuring one of history’s most endearing and enduring heroines – a young woman who starts down-and-out in drudgery but is later transformed into the literal “belle of the ball.” Oh yes, there are glass slippers and a pumpkin involved, too.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella has been treasured by millions since it made its 1957 debut on television starring the great Julie Andrews. The Broadway adaptation playing here at The Smith Center is a modern work that expands upon Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s masterpiece with an infusion by playwright Douglas Carter Beane of more elements from the 1697 fairy tale source. Along the way, Beane has made a very contemporary work, one that greets 2015 with a modern-minded, strong and independent female leading character – plus a bit of cheekiness.

Of course Beane’s book – replete with volleys of witty dialogue – is enhanced by the musical’s famous and cherished songs including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” There are also new tunes, including “Me, Who am I?” and “There’s Music in You,” that are destined to become classics.

As it was first created for television, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella has always been a visual tour de force. This stage version expands on the musical’s original grandeur thanks to the dynamic flair of its creative team, which includes Tony Award nominee Anna Louizos, costume design by six-time Tony Award-winner William Ivey Long, lighting design by Tony Award-winner Kenneth Posner and sound design by Tony Award nominee Nevin Steinberg.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella’s glittering carriage is a cinematic spectacle in store for audiences, as are its many colorful and exuberant dance scenes. Other striking images in the musical include Prince Topher in his jousting armor and Ella’s bejeweled white ball gown replete with twinkling tiara. Even Ella’s terrible stepsisters add to the tableau with their outrageous outfits.

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

It will be a thrill for Broadway fans to witness the genius pairing ofRodgers (the composer) and Hammerstein (the lyricist). They both were students at Columbia University in the 1920s and decades later began to work exclusively together, creating what has been called the “Golden Age” of musicals. Their first partnership was 1943’s Oklahoma!, one of the quintessentially American examples of performing art (and an inspiration for IDAHO! The ComedyMusical currently in development and premiering July 2016 at The Smith Center). They also created blockbusters such as The King and I, South Pacific and The Sound of Music, just to mention a few of their collaborations.

The duo’s success in musicals was astounding. Together, they garnered 35 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards and two Emmy Awards. Rodgers and Hammerstein left such an indelible imprint on American music and culture overall that they were commemorated on a U.S. postal stamp, had a street in New York City’s theatre district named after them (Rodgers & Hammerstein Row at West 44thStreet), and were lauded by Time Magazine as the most influential showmen of the 20th century.

With such a tapestry of the traditional woven with the new, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is sure to enchant Las Vegas.

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