Gateway’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is spectacular, once again proving the company is Long Island’s answer to Broadway. Everything about the production (featuring a book by Douglas Carter Beane and additional songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook), from the set design to the score to the talent, is breathtaking. This beloved fairytale is transformed into a musical about love and the power of kindness. The show is being performed at the Patchogue Theater through December 27.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella differs from the Disney animated film in that there are no talking mice or birds helping with chores, but this musical does not leave you wanting. It is everything you expect in a fairytale, with magic, love, music and conflict.
Cinderella is played by the pint-sized powerhouse Molly Rushing, who embodies the attributes of this timeless character. She is soft-spoken yet firm, unfailingly kind, and her voice clear and strong. Although she is bullied by her stepsisters Charlotte (Sarah Michelle Cuc) and Gabrielle (Jessica Norland Baker) and abused by “Madame” (Paula Leggett Chase), her late father’s widow, Cinderella manages to remain optimistic. Cinderella’s stepsisters are hilarious and hard to hate. Although you’ll try to dislike Madame, you can’t help but root for them all in the end. Charlotte is hilarious in the “Stepsister’s Lament” and Gabrielle rebels against Madame by sneaking off with her common-born true love Jean-Michell (Brian Ray Norris).
The slightly dorky Prince Topher is played by the adorably dashing Conor Guzman. At first, the Prince is bored with his life and content to let his Lord Chancellor, Sebastian (played by the familiar face of Steve Brady), take care of business for him, to the detriment of his kingdom. Throughout the show, the Prince matures into a man, as Cinderella opens his eyes to the struggles of the people in his kingdom.
Marie (Suzana Guzman) is our fairy godmother, at first portrayed as a crazy village woman. Many spurn Marie, but not Cinderella. To repay Cinderella’s kindness, Marie uses her magical powers to help her attend the ball. With some fog and very clever costume design, Cinderella’s rags turn into a beautiful ball gown, a pumpkin is her golden carriage, and village animals are turned into the horses, a footman and a coachman.
When Cinderella and Prince Topher meet for the first time at the Royal Ball, the connection between the characters is immediate and tangible. The pair was flawless while twirling around and singing the utterly romantic “Ten Minutes Ago,” a melody that stayed with me for days. Cinderella flees the ball as the clock strikes midnight, and the Prince loses her in the darkness in the hilarious “Pursuit” scene in the forest.
The Prince then decides to host a banquet, in the hopes that his mystery maid will appear again so he can steal her away. Cinderella, with the help of Marie in “There’s Music In You,” works up the courage to meet Topher again and get him to listen to the villagers that are suffering under Sebastian’s greedy stewardship.
The love song “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” is spellbinding, with perfect harmony by Rushing and Guzman. The conviction and emotion displayed is beautiful to behold.
As we know, Cinderella weds her Prince and lives happily ever after, and in “The Wedding” finale the cast will have you on your feet, dancing and singing along to the unforgettable music of this timeless tale, that reminds us that forgiveness is important, and kindness should be a way of life.
“Cinderella” is playing at the Patchogue Theatre, 71 East Main Street, Patchogue, through December 27. For tickets and more information, visit patchoguetheatre.org or call 631-207-1313.