I grew up withCinderella. I read most of its versions and watched its adaptation on themovies and in television. I didn't get to see the one starred by Julie Andrewsthough. It was first aired on TV in 1957 and was viewed by 107,000,000people—the largest audience to date.
When I heard it wasLea Salonga who would bring the cinder girl to life on stage, I was ecstatic. AFilipina will play the role of my favorite fairy tale character? A leg of theproduction will run here in Manila?Awesome!
The story openswith a young girl scrubbing the floor. In the small room, there is a pail ofwater, a wooden bed, and a broomstick. She lives in scarcity, but her heart isbrimming with much enthusiasm.
She's a "sweet child and kind," and she even feeds the rats. Despiteher never-ending chores, the cinder girl has always been optimistic. She usuallydaydreams and hopes that "the deepest longing in the world is waitingsomewhere."The Fairy Godmother, played by Charlie Parker, enters the scene. She's tall,robust, witty, and quite a tease. She usually joins Cinderella in her reverie,and serves as the girl's alter ego.
The Prologue recaps with the Fairy Godmother narrating Cinderella's richhistory, which dates back to 9th century China. The backdrop changes and theprojection and light effects create a striking impact!
The first scene is at the TownSquare. Hark the Herald, a representative from thepalace, announces: "The Prince is giving a ball!" This gets the whole townexcited.
A few minutes later, everyone begins practicing the waltz for the ball. Themoment calls for a high level of energy, and the vendors, maids, and patronsengage in a well-choreographed dance!
This is also where the formidable trio—the stepmother and the twostepsisters—is introduced.
Julia Cook, the stepmother, inquires about the commotion. Upon learning thatPrince Christopher will be giving a ball, she becomes excited for herdaughters, Portia (Jen Bechter) and Joy (Brandy Zarle).
Cinderella, who is carrying tons of boxes, hears about it and starts wishingshe can go to the ball, too.
The next scene shows Cinderella running around in circles to follow theorders of her step-family. One asks for a cup of tea, the other demands that thewindow—which keeps on opening—be closed; the orders are all coming at the sametime.
Then, the three start talking about their preparations for the big event.What are they going to wear? How are they going to introduce themselves to theprince?
Meeting the prince is a big deal to the mom. Her family is broke, and she'sout to win the heart of Prince Christopher for either Portia or Joy. To makesure everything will turn out well, she asks her daughters to rehearse theirlines and curtsies. This scene is ridiculously hilarious!
In the fairy tales, the step-family is really wicked, making the life ofCinderella hell. But in this musical version, the comic antics of the threeladies become a good contrast to the forlorn scenes of Lea.
The next part leads in to the Royal Dressing Room. Enter the King and Queen,played by Jefferson Slinkard and Janna Cardia, respectively.
Queen Macy, who has not thrown a ball for the past five years, finds herselfvery busy with the guest list, which has 1,700 names, and the things to bepurchased.
The King, on the other hand, is getting nervous. He is very frugal, andthinks the ball is just a waste of money. Nonetheless, the Queen's enthusiasmis so contagious that he finds it hard to say no to her wishes.
A portion of the scene is about deciding where to get the wine. The Kingrepeatedly sings, "I want the wine of my country." Then towards theend, he completes his line: "I want the wine of my country. The wine of mycountry is...beer."
While everyone in the palace is busy with the preparations, thePrince—played by Peter Saide, who recently appeared on Saturday Night Fever as Tony—is a little troubled.
He confesses his anxiety over the upcoming ball to his dad. In the end, theKing convinces him to feel excited, so as not to dishearten the Queen. The talland handsome prince half-heartedly agrees and says to his mom that he's"tragically happy" about the Grand Ball.
In Cinderella's kitchen, the ladies are getting ready for the ball. Joywears a violet gown with floral prints, which hugs her figure nicely. Portia,on the other hand, dons an outrageous pumpkin-inspired outfit, which highlightsher pumpkin-shaped figure.
After the trio leaves for the event at the Palace, Cinderella is left alonewith her musing. While singing "In My Own Little Corner," she dreams of goingto different places and enjoying the good things that this life has to offer.
To make her imagination more vivid, the director employs a shadow effect tointerpret the lyrics of the song. So, on the stage are two spotlights—one is onLea, the other is on the shadow.
But before Cinderella gets carried away, the Fairy Godmother arrives.
The two belt out "Impossible." The Fairy Godmother tries to dismiss thescatty ideas of Cinderella about attending the Grand Ball. But the girl'sspirits cannot be easily dampened.
Next is the most magical moment.
The Fairy Godmother, with the help of director Bobby Garcia's magic wand,makes the wishes of Cinderella come true. The rats talk and dance, thentransform into horses and a coachman. The giant pumpkin becomes a golden coach.The cinder girl becomes the belle of the ball.
Every thing is executed perfectly. The transition from one "magical"transformation to the next, with the help of music and light effects, is fastand seamless!
The Palace Ballroom has a grand staircase and few chandeliers as props. Itisn't as grand as expected, but elegance still fills the hall with the elaboratecostumes of the guests.
Everyone is dancing, including the Prince, who is obviously agitated by thewomen who are close to throwing themselves at him.
The stepmother ensures that her daughters will have a moment with PrinceChristopher. But the efforts of the stepsisters are futile. They fail toenthrall him, but successfully capture the audience with their funny lines anddelivery.
The music is noisy, the people are dancing, there are so many thingshappening at the same time; and then, the music segues into a much slower pieceand perfectly establishes the change in mood.
Cinderella, in her simple yet shimmering white gown, appears. And that's hermoment. All eyes, including the audience's, are on her.
The world seems to have stopped for the Prince and the newcomer. They dancethe waltz in the ballroom; then they sing "Do I Love You Because You'reBeautiful" in the terrace.
The song is not easy to recall, but I remember the way sang it. How can atotal stranger catch the fancy of a prince? How can they possibly fall in lovewith each other at first sight? There's no explanation, it's simply magic. AndCinderella and Prince Christopher are successful in making that scene trulyenchanting.
And as we all know, the magic will be broken by the 12:00 o'clock curfew ofCinderella. She hastily leaves the palace, leaving one of her glass shoes. ThePrince will command a full search, but the stewards will only see a maidrunning away from the palace. The notable thing here is the way Cinderellachanges from the ball gown to maid's costume in a span of a few seconds.
The very next day, Herald goes house-to-house to look for the owner of theglass shoe. Portia and Joy, including their mother, will attempt to fit it. Butthey fail miserably. The Fairy Godmother enters the scene and asks the servantsto check if there are other ladies in the house, there's none. Where'sCinderella?
In her shabby clothes, she wanders off to the Garden Terrace of the Palaceand finds the Prince there. And with the help of the Fairy Godmother, PrinceChristopher realizes that the lady facing him is the owner of the glassshoe...the woman he loves.
And they live happily ever after.
Except for the minor twist in the ending and the witty and hilarious linesof the characters, the Cinderella versionof Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II stays true to that fairy tale Igrew up with. Kids from five to fifty will get enchanted by the musicalversion.
I had a hard time hearing some of the lines from where I was seated—especiallythat part when the Queen sang with the King—but the message of the show is loudand clear: Impossible things truly happen!
I caught the Cinderella fever that night. I kept talking about it—wasI spellbound? Or did magic play tricks on me?