Broadway Debut of Rodgers & Hammerstein plus “Peter” truly make stage fun for ALL by Kevin M. Thomas

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella on Broadway Photo: Carol Rosegg

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway Photo: Carol Rosegg

Musicals “for people of all ages” have always been a Broadway mainstay. With recent closures of “Mary Poppins” and “Billy Elliot,” it seems that “The Lion King” and “Newsies” are the only ones to carry the family oriented banner.

No worries – a flurry of new shows have opened that truly seem to have mass appeal. While I have not seen the acclaimed “Matilda” and I don’t plan to see the more-for-kids “Annie,” I still find some worthwhile productions on the Great White Way.

“Cinderella” more than fits the shoe…or is it the glass slipper. This new production, with book my Douglas Carter Beane, encompasses elements from the TV productions to the original Julie Andrews television classic, and right up to the more recent Whitney Houston version. It also tosses in a touch of “Ella Enchanted” (2004 British American romantic comedy starring Anne Hathaway), and blends it into the quintessential work that this show definitely is.

The story of “Cinderella” is classic. In fact, it was actually first on Broadway in 1855. But surprisingly, and I checked, the Rodgers & Hammerstein version that we all know has never been on Broadway. This marks it’s Broadway debut!

The slick, cool production, with smart modern dialogue from Beane, still holds true to the old chestnut with songs we remember and sing a long with: “Impossible,” “In My Own Little Corner,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Lovely Night.”

Our Ella, played by Laura Osnes,  has quickly become an actress to take notice. Sure she was found in a reality show seeking a lead for “Grease,” but since then she has proven to be a charming leading lady who chooses the right parts and makes them her own, most notably her Tony nominated star-making performance in “Bonnie & Clyde.”

She is aptly paired with her prince charming Santino Fontana, who is a bit more goofy than your normal prince, but is still just as charming. For those who may not know him, you should discover the great internet show “Submission Only” which is a Broadway lovers dream show (just like “Smash”, which apparently you aren’t watching but should). Fontana is one of the many great performers on that show.

“Cinderella’ also gets its strength from its theatre royalty known as the featured cast. Harriet Harris commands as the stepmother, and Victoria Clark is a wondrous fairy godmother.

The show also is mesmerizing for pure theatrics. The scenes in which Cinderella is transformed are pure Broadway magic, making you want to re-wind to see it all again. And then you remember it’s a live show.

“Cinderella” plays at the Broadway Theatre and more information can be found at www.cinderellaonbroadway.com. Get tickets now – Tony nominations come out soon,  and this show will be hotter than hot when that happens.

Another show that truly can be enjoyed by all ages is no longer on Broadway – “Peter and the Starcatcher.” But don’t worry as it transferred back to off-Broadway and proves to find a more comfortable home at its more intimate New World stage.

"Peter and the Starcatcher"

“Peter and the Starcatcher”

“Peter,” after having played almost a year on Broadway and the winner of five Tony Awards, returns off-Broadway telling the magical tale of Peter Pan, but before he was even Peter. A show full of magic, charm and humor , “Peter” runs at a fast pace and makes you want to keep on track with it.

While the talent on stage is amazing, the true pedigree is behind the scenes.

Co-director Roger Rees is one of theatre’s most acclaimed actors. Besides a Tony nomination for his direction of “Peter,” he also won a Best Actor Tony for “Nicholas Nickelby.” His Tony nominated co-director Alex Timbers was also nominated for his Book of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

But don’t let their accolades take anything away from one of the best ensemble casts of 12 performers, playing various parts in telling the journey of young Peter, and the starcatcher Molly who battle through numerous perils to discover a Neverland of their very own.

In particular, Rick Holmes steals the show as Black Stache. Holmes graduated from the part of Lord Aster, the part he played on Broadway, after the talented Christian Borle, who played Stache,  walked off with the Tony Award during it’s Broadway run. Holmes seems to have more fun on stage than the audience does watching him. But with a Tony Award or not, Holmes is spot-on perfect and is a great physical comedian, especially in a scene towards the end of the show when the character of Captain Hook is introduced.

“Peter” spends a good part of the show looking for a home, but this production seems to have found one at the New World Stages. Get tickets and more information at www.peterandthestarcatcher.com