Dhora Da Luz and Samuel Shea in "Cinderella." Photo by Rich Soublet II
The songs remain the same: “Impossible.” “In My Own Little Corner.” “Ten Minutes Ago.” “The Prince is Giving a Ball.” “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” But the 1957 Rodgers & Hammerstein “Cinderella” with the 2013 book by Douglas Carter Beane puts a lot of new wrinkles into the show originally written for television that starred Julie Andrews.
Look and listen no further than the “Cinderella” onstage at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.
In Beane’s adaptation, Cinderella (Dhora Da Luz) wants more than love – she wants social justice. The poor villagers among whom she resides are being exploited by the royal regime soon to be ruled by a gentlemanly but un-woke prince (Samuel Shea). In Beane’s adaptation, one of Cinderella’s wicked (not really) stepsisters, Gabrielle (Kumari Small), is being wooed by a firebrand (Drew Bradford) fighting for the aforementioned social justice. In Beane’s adaptation, reconciliation rules the day at the end of the fairytale, with even Cinderella’s wicked (not really) stepmom (Eileen Bowman) receiving forgiveness.
None of this prevents Beane’s “Cinderella” or Moonlight’s lush production from being tremendous fun. If anything, the narrative changes minimize some of the tale’s mawkishness and, dare I say, add a dollop of relevance.
It helps that the staging directed by Noelle Marion with fanciful choreography by Jill Gorrie Rovatsos and steady music direction from Tamara Paige enjoys some highly entertaining performances. Bowman, a consistently scene-stealing musical-comedy actor, is chortle-out-loud hilarious as Cinderella’s stepmother, Madame. Another dependable performer on San Diego stages is Steve Gunderson, slyly amusing here as the prince’s advisor Sebastian. Anise Ritchie gets to belt out the musical’s best belt-out numbers as Marie, the senile woman-turned-Cinderella’s fairy godmother in Beane’s retelling.
Transformations are this production’s calling cards too, as when Marie’s rags turn to fairy garb and Cinderella spins from rags into gowns. Naturally a pumpkin becomes a coach and mice become coachmen. “Cinderella” wouldn’t be “Cinderella” otherwise.
Though dripping with sincerity from the moment they meet, this Cinderella (she’s Ella in Beane’s book) and her prince (called Topher, supposedly short for Christopher) make a likable pair. Both Da Luz (in her Moonlight debut) and Shea have lovely singing voices.
So this is a more than worthwhile night out for you and (if you have any) your kids. It’s too bad Moonlight couldn’t start the show earlier, however, at 7:30 p.m. if not 7. An 8 p.m. start with a finale after 10:30 makes it tough for the little ones to stay awake.
“Cinderella” runs through June 25 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.