Select Page

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella Caught Me by Surprise

by | Dec 16, 2023 | Review | 0 comments

publicity photo: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella

Kamyar Pazandeh and Ali Watson (Photo by David Cooper)

Director Johnna Wright’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella does what it sets out to do extraordinarily well. It’s entertaining, well produced, and moving.

This is despite some stiff odds. Rodgers and Hammerstein originally wrote Cinderella for television in 1957 and, unlike the songs in the team’s biggest hits (Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music), the musical numbers in Cinderella are mostly forgettable. You can tell who wrote them, but it sounds like they were having a bit of an off day.

And then there’s the problem of predictability: Cinderella doesn’t have a lot of plot, and pretty much everybody knows what’s going to happen.

So what makes this production so engaging?

Musically, the cast is stellar. All the featured performers can really, really sing. Ali Watson (Ella) and Kamyar Pazandeh (Prince Topher) both possess powerful voices that rocket through wide ranges. And, as performers, they have the confidence to embrace their characters’ innocence. They charm.

I’ve never heard Catriona Murphy in better voice than she is here as the Fairy Godmother: float those high notes! And, musically, the Act 2 number “When You’re Driving Through the Moonlight”, which Ella shares with her stepsisters, Gabrielle and Charlotte, and nasty stepmom, Madame, is a highlight. It’s such a pleasure to hear the performers — Watson, Danica Kobayashi (Gabrielle), Sarah Canatuba (Charlotte), and Lossen Chambers (Madame) — weave their harmonies.

Cantuba is fearlessly funny — and gross: swaggering, always stuffing food in her face — as Charlotte. In the supporting roles, I also particularly enjoyed Tainui Kuru’s broad comic chops: he’s playing Sebastian, the corrupt Lord Protector. And I was mightily impressed by Ryan Maschke’s work as Lord Pinkleton. Maschke can sing, his dancing is extraordinary, and, like so many of the performers in this show, he exudes easy, humble confidence.

I hate to mar this list of praise, but the one performance that didn’t work for me was Chambers’s Madame. Lots of the other performances in this production are big, but Chambers proves that, even with this material, you can go over the top.

But the depth of talent is impressive and extends right through the chorus, including to Jaren Guerreiro, who tosses off some moves that are downright gymnastic.

Nicol Spinola’s choreography is gorgeous, often balletic in its lifts. And Alaia Hamer’s costumes are, for the most part, stunners. I’m thinking of Topher’s white tailcoat, for instance, Madame’s intricate blue-green dress, and the Fairy Godmother’s onstage transformation from ragged beggarwoman to sparkling envoy of magic.

I confess that, going into this show, I was bracing for potential boredom: it’s two and a half hours of Cinderella, after all, including a 20-minute intermission, and I figured, “How many surprises can there be?” But Douglas Carter Beane wrote a new book for the 2013 Broadway revival, and he mixes things up a bit, introducing a new character, Jean-Michel, for instance. Nicely played here by Ben Brown, Jean-Michel is a political activist with whom Gabrielle falls in love. And Beane establishes — or more likely maintains — a pleasing level of openheartedness.

Encased in such a well-realized production, it’s that openheartedness that really got me. When Ella and Topher fell for one another and sang their love songs, “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”, I teared up. Repeatedly.

Time flew.

CINDERELLA Music by Richard Rodgers. Music by Oscar Hammerstein. New book by Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Johnna Wrights. On Friday, December 15. A Gateway Theatre production playing at the Gateway Theatre until December 31. Tickets

For the blind and those with low vision, VocalEye will describe the performance on Friday, December 29.

NEVER MISS A REVIEW: Sign up for FRESH SHEET, my weekly e-letter about the arts.

And, if you want to help to keep independent arts criticism alive in Vancouver, check out my Patreon page.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Freshsheet Reviews logo reversed

Subscribe Free!

Sign up for the FRESH SHEET newsletter and get curated local, national, and international arts coverage — all sorts of arts — every week.


Drop a line to


FRESH SHEET, the reviews and FRESH SHEET, the newsletter are available free. But writing them is a full-time job and arts criticism is in peril. Please support FRESH SHEET by sending an e-transfer to or by becoming a patron on Patreon.

Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.