Something more than a foot fetish was afoot at the Broadway Theatre where the new (and, lamentably, last) Rodgers and Hammerstein musical slipped on to The Great White Way. Maybe that should be “slippered.” When the 12-minute shoe-fitting contest finally surfaces, it’s more like a quaint nod to the ancient legend.
Cinderella is a show of old-fashioned charm and newfound magic. And at the curtain call, both were acknowledged when the creators joined the cast on the stage. The book writer, Douglas Carter Beane, arrived, brandishing a gigantic photograph of his composer and lyricist, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It couldn’t have been gigantic enough for this crowd. “A lot of people seemed touched by that,” Beane reflected later. “I suddenly felt this overwhelming rejoicing—like, ‘They’re here! They’re back!' It was a very exciting moment.”
Ted Chapin, as president and executive director of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, is the prime mover in extending the Broadway lives of this theatrical team. Their last “new”-if-posthumous Broadway show came in 1996: State Fair, based on the same-named musical of 1945, their only original film musical. Cinderella is their only original television musical, debuting live on March 31, 1957, on the 14th anniversary of their very first Broadway opening—that landmark liftoff, Oklahoma!
The first 90-minute special with Julie Andrews, directed by Ralph Nelson and stage-managed by Joseph Papp, was radically revised and remade for Lesley Ann Warren in ‘65 and Brandy in ‘97 and has been crying for a Broadway mounting ever since.
Lead producer Robyn Goodman, rallying a conglomerate of 15 other producing groups behind her, heeded the call to give R&H that extra Broadway inning. “I feel that it was a gift that was given to me,” she confessed, “and I’ve tried to treat it as such by putting together the best team that I could possibly find—and I think I did.”
Starting with Star: “When Ted first asked me about taking this score and developing it into a new musical, the first person I thought of was this little actress whom I had seen in a couple of things, and her name was Laura Osnes. Three years ago, before it was even written, I told her I was going to have a part for her in two or three years and she should hang on. And when I called her and I told her what it was, she screamed. I said, ‘It’s the marriage of the role and the actress.’ If you’re looking for Julie Andrews, there she is—Laura has beauty, grace and the voice like an angel.”
Osnes remembers that phone call well. At the time, she was in Florida. The once and future Cinderella was preparing to blast her way onto Broadway as Bonnie Parker in Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie and Clyde. “Robyn said, ‘We’re doing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and we have you in mind. Will you be in our readings?’ ‘Yes.’ I’ve been a part of it now for almost two years. It has been a fantastic journey.”
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