Sunday, July 21, 2019

Cinderella tale gets new twists at Foothill Music Theatre

Prince Topher (Edward Clark) slays a dragon with a slingshot after slaying a giant.

There are new takes on the old fairy tale of Cinderella as transformed into a musical by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II.

Presented by Foothill Music Theatre and called “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” this one features a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, who revised and updated Hammerstein’s original.

It’s designed to give the story more relevance while retaining its magical elements.
FMT’s production does just that with some ingenious stagecraft along with some fine performances.

Christina Lea plays the title character, here called Ella, who’s little more than a servant to her self-centered stepmother, Madame (Jasmine Johnson) and stepsisters, Gabrielle (Melissa Gialdini) and Charlotte (Gwyneth Forrester).

Despite their disregard, Ella is a kind person, as evidenced by giving water to the prince, Topher (Edward Clark), and money to the beggar woman known as Crazy Marie (Angela Ceseña).

Soon to become king, Topher is urged by his evil adviser, Sebastian (Vic Prosak), to throw a ball and choose a bride from the eligible women there.

Charlotte (Gwyneth Forrester, left) Gabrielle (Melissa Gialdini) and Madame (Jasmine Johnson) are ready for the ball. 
Ella’s family is all aflutter with preparations for the party, and Ella is left behind. She wishes she could go, for she had been smitten by the prince.

Marie (Angela  Ceseña) is Ella's (Christina Lea) fairy godmother.
Transformed into her fairy godmother, Marie grants her wish, adorning her in a lovely gown and glass slippers and transforming a pumpkin into a fine carriage drawn by four man-sized mice.

The one caveat is that Ella must leave by midnight because everything will return to its original form then.

All goes well at the ball, but she runs off at midnight, thus causing the prince to order a search for her.

In one of the new twists, he can’t find her, so he decides to try one more time by giving a banquet. Again the fairy godmother comes through, but this time Ella  loses a glass slipper as she flees at midnight.

The slipper fits and the prince finds his bride-to-be.
Of course the prince eventually finds and marries her, but not before getting out from under Sebastian’s influence.

Instead he’s moved by Ella and Jean-Michel (Jomar Martinez), a new character in the traditional story. Jean-Michel is a rebel who decries the cruel treatment of his fellow townspeople. The prince vows to improve their lot.

There are some other new twists, such as a budding romance between Jean-Michel and Ella’s stepsister Gabrielle. Gabrielle also correctly surmises that the mystery woman at the ball was Ella and becomes her ally.

Directed by Foothill’s Milissa Carey, the acting overall is fine, especially by the women. Jasmine Johnson as Madame deserves special mention for her strong stage presence as well as her good singing.

Lea as Ella and Ceseña as Marie also sing well under the musical direction of Daniel Feyer. Everyone else is at least adequate although Clark as the prince has some pitch problems.

The choreography is by Lee Ann Payne with an effective set by Kuo-Hao Lo, sound by Andrew Heller and lighting by Michael Ramsaur (some lighting cues were missed on opening night).

Special credit goes to Lisa Rozman, who designed the colorful costumes, especially those that so quickly transform Ella and Marie.

Running about two hours with one intermission, “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” will continue through Aug. 4 in Foothill College’s Smithwick Theatre, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.

For tickets and information, call (650) 949-7360 or visit
Photos by David Allen