PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Cinderella; The Very Best Foot Forward

By Harry Haun
04 Mar 2013

Victoria Clark
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Director Brokaw, a strong one with character comedy, applauds Beane’s approach: “What I liked about the show was his point-of-view on the material. It was about both of them saving each other rather than her just being saved by him—and then also how we upended our expectations of all the characters and how the story unfolds. What was exciting about this is that it really did feel like we were working on a new Rodgers and Hammerstein show. Even though the music was set, still the songs had to be rearranged because they were all being put together in a different way. It was exciting to be working on something that felt like a new show.”

Bartlett’s depiction of a foppish power-figure will delight the producer out there plotting to revive a Cyril Ritchard vehicle. But he shows sterner-stuff when the prince starts seeing through his scheming ways. “I really made an effort to ground all of that material and make it real,” the actor admits. “It’s a genuine pleasure working with Santino. I’ve worked with so many young actors, and he’s a real joy.”

Victoria Clark, who last worked the Broadway Theatre as a Tony-nominated Mother Superior in Beane’s Sister Act, has been granted a major elevation. Here she is a fairy godmother who flings her bibbidy-bobbidi-boo gleefully about the stage, creating gorgeous ballgowns in seconds (sometimes three, never more than nine).

She also flies about with the greatest of (initially acted) ease. “In the beginning, I was frightened,” she has to admit. “They had to teach me—like, two feet off the ground, then they would raise it up and up till I got more comfortable. One time I’m on a swing, and the other time I’m in a harness, and neither time I have a safety wire on.”

She arrives on the scene disguised as a beggar-lady, looking less like Clark and more like character-actress Mary Beth Peil than Clark. “My own fairy godmother!” Clark exclaims, lighting up. “She’s one of my dearest friends. She brought my son into the world. She delivered him. It’s the truth. There were also doctors, but she was there.”

Music is part of Clark’s magic act, and she isn’t short-changed in that department, what with “Impossible/It’s Possible” and the forgotten “There’s Music in You.”

But that particular song is not forgotten by Chapin, who knows where all the songs from other R&Hs are buried in this show. “There’s Music in You’ was written for the movie ‘Main Street to Broadway,’ one of the great terrible movies of all time. The song was a Rodgers and Hammerstein song that they wrote for Mary Martin to do in the new Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that Josh Logan is directing in the movie. Now I do have to say, even though that’s where it started, there’s been some help with that song to make it more of a power ballad. It was first done for Whitney Houston in the 1997 remake with Brandy, and then some more stuff was added.

“Santino’s first song, ‘Me, Who Am I?,' was cut from Me and Juliet, and ‘Loneliness of Evening,’ which Laura and Santino sing in the second act, comes from South Pacific.

Greg Hildreth
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

 "And one of the things that I just decided not to say to anybody till the show had opened—when Cinderella comes back from the ball and does this whole thing about ‘he was tall, very tall,’ that was actually cut from The King and I. It was the original beginning of ‘Hello, Young Lovers,’ where Anna describes when Tom was there.”

“What I think they’ve done really well in this production is that they’ve blended it all so it doesn’t feel like plopped-in songs from other places. It all feels like, to me, it all belongs here. David Chase is a wonderful musical supervisor. He took two songs from the Julie Andrews version—‘Your Majesties,’ which is a food song, and ‘The Prince Is Giving a Ball’—and figured out ways to use them in this production as transitional things so that’s why they’re there. They are very much a presence, but they’re used in a different way. Because it’s all Rodgers music, it all feels like it belongs.”

The secret star of Cinderella is the gifted and good-humored costume designer, William Ivey Long. Being a Southern boy, he says “Aw, shucks” to that.

So did he hear the applause when a few shakes here and there from a clever actress can trigger an entire dress transformation? “I did,” the designer drawls a little sheepishly. “It sorta stopped the show, didn’t it? But, y’know, that didn’t stop the show. What actually stopped the show was the fact that the audience was buying into our level of magic. That’s what it was. It wasn’t just one or two tricks. It was, they thought, ‘Oh. Okay. We’re on board.’ So it was for all of us, I feel.”

Long pioneered this little dress trick last season with Don’t Dress for Dinner, but this time he has the bucks and the inspiration. “Serving the Rodgers and Hammerstein cannon is the greatest thing you can do on earth. We’re not going to be able to do a Broadway debut of theirs ever again, so it’s an honor. With their music and with their lyrics, they—within an entire song—do more about character development and story telling than anything we do. What they do to create story and emotion is the greatest thing on the planet. To be a part of that is historic.

“Every transformation happens because the performer makes it happen. There is only one time when one hand pulls off a babushka and the tiara falls up. The rest is all done by the performers. There is no help whatsoever. You think about it. You draw pictures. And then you bring your A-plus team together. Then you really get to work. It’s not a village. It’s a town. I did it all, with my team. I have an excellent team.

“It’s the first time I said, ‘I’ll handle the magic.’ It’s hubris. You’re not supposed to say that. I’m not Siegfried and Roy—but I did it in honor of them and my training with them. I have to mention Siegfried and Roy, because they are my teachers. I did their last show at the Mirage. It ran 11 years—till The Tiger. And they are such humanitarians and animaltarians, and they’ve saved so many species. They’re bigger than life to me. You learn to take on magic which happens every day. There’s lightning or there’s rain, or there’s sun—it’s all magic, but you learn from Siegfried and Roy that life has magic in it, and you just sort of embrace it. That made me bold.”