At the close of Act 1 of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, as the Fairy Godmother grants Cinderella's
wishes, she explains that the impossible becomes possible because "daft and dewey-eyed dopes keep building up impossible hopes…" The description is always an apt one
for theatre folks, and it perfectly describes the miracle of faith that the Fulton Theatre, under the leadership of Executive Artistic Producer Marc Robin, has managed to
accomplish– the completion of a $30 + million-dollar expansion and renovation of the theatre and the reopening of this world class performing arts complex after two of the
darkest and most difficult years in theatre history. After two smaller preliminary productions, Robin now pulls out all the stops on the main stage with an exquisitely enchanting
production of Cinderella that has sparkle, heart, and leaves the audience breathless with joy.
In collaboration with Maine State Music Theatre, whose Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark commissioned the magnificent costumes and who nurtured
a significant number of the performers and technicians through its Educational Fellowship Program, this Cinderella is a feast for the eyes and ears and balm for the soul.
Using the "Enchanted Version" of the story, adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs from Robert L. Freedman's original teleplay, of the lush
and supremely Romantic Rodgers and Hammerstein score, this tightly constructed two-hour fairytale retains all the familiar elements while
injecting a bit of contemporary sensibility that – unlike the recent Broadway revival - is never forced. Robin directs and choreographs
with a sweeping lyricism and cinematic subtlety. He gives us a romantic pair who are genuine in their vulnerability and starry-eyed
emotion, and whose courtship speaks to the dreamers among us. He shapes the narrative by eliciting convincing scene work, and in the
ensemble he creates arresting stage pictures that seem to leap from the brightly colored pages of a storybook. The big numbers, like the
opening village scene, the Cinderella Waltz and the wedding, are choreographed to dazzle. And without giving anything away, the transformation scene is consummate stagecraft.
Music Director Ben McNaboe leads the seventeen-piece Fulton Orchestra with élan, shaping the arching lines of the score and the lush
Robert Russell Bennett orchestrations with vivid color. The scenery by Adam Koch (Katelin Walsko, props) is opulent in its French period
feel, full of rich colors and textures, and, despite the large structural units, moves with seamless flow. There are some brilliant and
beautiful touches, especially in the Fairy Godmother scene, and in "The Search", where a series of rapidly changing drops suggest the
hurried passage through lovely locales. Paul Black (video Steven Royal) supplies the magical lighting that caresses Koch's sets and lifts the
visuals into the realm of heightened fantasy. Josh Allamon masters the soundscape. Travis M. Grant designs the sumptuous costumes that are
elegant in silhouette, imaginative in detail and texture, and sometimes outrageously characterful – these complemented by Kevin S. Foster's
handsome, individualized wigs. The technical team, led by Tim Markus (Production Stage Manager), Rebekah Church and Domingo
Mancuello (Deck Stage Managers), manage the many rapid transitions and big transformations with seemingly effortlessness.
The large cast works perfectly together in the best ensemble mode. Manna Nichols makes a radiant, gentle, quietly self-possessed
Cinderella, who is equally lovely as the scullery maid and the princess, and she sings the music in a polished lyric soprano. Jonathan Mousset
makes Prince Christopher a very human royal, a little awkward and shy, as well as ardent and determined. Daniella Dali is an imperious
and ruthless Stepmother, while Carolyn Anne Miller (Joy) and Kalen Robinson (Grace) make the two Stepsisters garishly funny – the entire
trio blending strong voices for their big numbers. As King Maximillian and Queen Constantina, Nathaniel Hackman and Nicole Hackmann
(married in real life) are endearingly doting, and both possess such rich voices that they make their duet, "Boys and Girls Like You and
Me" a special moment. Blake Hammond is a witty and fond Lionel, and Ann Eliza Canning-Skinner gives the Fairy Godmother some soulful
pizazz. The nineteen-person ensemble ( credited below) is rich in triple threat talent, all particularly fine dancers who execute Robin's vision with conviction and energy.
In addition to being the kind of heartwarming family entertainment perfect for the holiday season, the Fulton's production of Cinderella
demonstrates the world-class artistic and technical capabilities of this company and serves as the perfect vehicle to showcase the potential
this theatre in its new incarnation has to transform the community. As only the best of theatre productions can do, the Fulton's Cinderella
makes the imagination soar. It offers beauty, sparkle, healing and hope, and the belief that a fairytale is not simply an escape, but rather
a means to inspire and uplift. It sends the audience out into the night with a song in its heart, a lightness in its step, and a sense that truly
impossible things and wonderful things are happening every day.
The Cinderella ensemble: Rei Akazawa-Smith, Megan Nicole Arnoldy, Michaela Bolt, Jonathan Bryant, Almi Cambridge, Gina de Pool,
Hannah Hunt, Carlos Jimenez, Kevin Lacey, Maggie McCown, Mateo Melendez, Alex Hayden Miller, Brian Padgett, Austin Phillips, Aaron
Pottenger, Commodore C. Priumous III, Melaina Rairamo, Hannah Schreer, Hal Yudoff
Photos courtesy Fulton Theatre, Kinectiv, photographers