There is something magical residing within the walls of the Cadillac Palace Theatre this winter. Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” is lighting up every individual who encounters it with its incredible barrage of musicality, heart, and visual delight.
Directed by Mark Brokaw and choreographed by Josh Rhodes, the show is a visual delight from start to finish. The set design is impeccable and varied, the costumes are a sparkly feast and the lighting is spectacular. Watching this show alone would be a pleasure, but the talent that lies within the world it enacts brings it to another level entirely.
During the Dec. 17 performance, the effervescent understudy and ensemble member Audrey Cardwell replaced Paige Faure in the role of Cinderella after only one song. The transition was nearly seamless and Cardwell lit the stage with her humility and talent. Though a few technical errors bobbed up from time to time, they only added from the genuine spark she infused the title role with. The production is technically and artistically sound, but this mid-show switch added something truly exciting and spontaneous to it.
The inimitable Andy Jones is delightful in his portrayal of Prince Topher, as well. He is handsome and dashing with just a touch of endearing naivety that plays uniquely with the stereotypical fairy tale roles. This unassuming qualities that Jones imbues the Prince with, transforms Cinderella into more of a heroine than a damsel-in-distress when she opens Topher’s eyes to his true potential. Jones is a talented performer and a wonderful community member within an obviously tight-knit cast.
Kecia Lewis also brings a spectacular dimension to “Cinderella” as the luminescent Fairy Godmother. Her voice soars during audience favorites like “Impossible” and her presence always both grounds the show and ads and effervescent quality to it.
The music in Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic truly serves as the glue that binds the production at its very foundations. Be it boon or a curse, shows that are as well known and beloved as “Cinderella” come with a certain set of expectations. To the delight of “Cinderella” veterans and new-timers alike, Broadway in Chicago’s newest treat delivers on each and every one of these anticipations. Staples like “A Lovely Night”, “Ten Minutes Ago”, and “In My Own Little Corner” are all delivered with poise and gusto. They match the original cast recording in quality, but deliver a level of newness that is thrilling, too.
This winter’s sugary and heartfelt treat supplies an experience that both embraces and transcends the world of fairy tale. It is self-aware of its saccharine qualities and plays around in them while grounding its magical moments in a world that seems just-real-enough. “Cinderella” is both ageless and modern, transporting its audience into a time that is both long ago and every single day. It is not often that a world on stage becomes so enchanting and so real all at once. It is a privilege to watch a world in which mice come to life, pumpkins turn into carriages, and fairy godmothers grant wishes and to think that, even for just a few hours, it just might happen to us, too.
“Cinderella” runs through Jan. 4.