Review: ‘Cinderella’ brings magic to Theatre Cedar Rapids stage

Modern twists cast a spell over Rodgers & Hammerstein classic

CEDAR RAPIDS — All that glitters is gold with the new Broadway version of “Cinderella,” onstage through Dec. 19 at Theatre Cedar Rapids.

This sparkling refresh of a tale as old as time lands beautifully in the present while preserving elements of the past that has had viewers swooning since the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical debuted on TV in 1957, then landed on stage a year later in London, and in the U.S. in 1961.

All the beloved songs are still there, as are the glass slipper, the pumpkin coach and the animals that helped Ella make her way to the ball.

But this time, the girl who finds solace in her own little corner among the cinders meets a prince who seeks solace in his own little corner of the world, as well. He’s just home from university, his ruling parents have died, and he’s struggling to find a purpose as he prepares to ascend the throne. He can slay a dragon, but can he conquer his destiny?

Madeline Kadlec steps as beautifully into Ella’s shoes as Brandon Burkhardt steps into Prince Topher’s regal bearing with elements of woe.

They are perfectly matched in honesty, sincerity and vocals dripping in richness. And of course, she’s as lovely as he is handsome, even if she is dressed in rags when they first meet by her home’s well.

Where: Theatre Cedar Rapids, 102 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids

When: To Dec. 19, 2021; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 11 Saturday matinee

Tickets: $27 to $51, TCR Box Office, (319) 366-8591 or Cinderella link at

Extras: All audience members must wear masks; light-up items will be sold for audience participation with the Fairy Godmother

They were meant to meet and rescue each other. But before Prince Topher can continue his parents’ legacy of fairness, he must get past the manipulations and machinations of his trusted guardian Sebastian, played by Caleb Haselhuhn with delicious deviousness.

Just as the prince is growing increasingly uneasy with Sebastian’s view of all’s well in the kingdom, he meets Ella, who embodies kindness despite the cruel turns of her own life.

Her shrewish stepmother whom everyone calls Madame — even her own daughters — makes no secret that she married Ella’s father for his money, and when he died, Ella became a thorn in her side. So now, Ella must wait hand and foot on the ungrateful trio who have overtaken her home.

They actually are hilarious, bringing garish color to the show bathed in glistening pale pastels. As Madame, Tricia Waechter screeches at Ella at every turn, pitching fits and tantrums when she’s not making googly eyes at Sebastian.

Hannah Green as stepsister Charlotte has the best one-liners as she stomps and snorts about the stage with her horned hair. Her “Stepsisters Lament” could easily steal the show, if the other performers weren’t equally strong. After Ella enchants the prince at the ball, leaving Charlotte alone in the palace with the rest of the also-rans, she pouts: “Why would a fellow want a girl like her? So obviously unusual. Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a usual girl like me?”

There’s nothing usual about Green, and viewers will delight in her every turn in the spotlight.

Beth Nelsen brings heart to stepsister Gabrielle, and plays into the new twist of social awareness her crush Jean-Michel (Adam Timko) brings to the story. He’s a revolutionary visionary with a sweet touch of awkwardness.

These character roles bring laughter, but Ella and Topher bring the charm.

Everything begins to revolve around Ella and Topher (short for Christopher Rupert Windemere Vladimir Karl Alexander Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James, a name expertly recited by town crier Lord Pinkleton (James Odegaard), when he announces plans for a ball.

As Ella and Topher are transformed and transfixed, their voices shimmer through all of the songs we know so well, including the classic “Ten Minutes Ago,” but also through a passionate new lament, “Loneliness of Evening.”

This is Burkhardt’s moment in the sun as Prince Topher yearns to find the elusive young woman who captured his heart at the ball, then fled into the night at the stroke of midnight. When Kadlec joins in with a descant, their voices rise in a perfect blend until she fades away and Burkhardt powers even higher toward his goals, inciting a rousing cheer from Friday’s opening night audience.

Making the magic

More cheers erupted when the Fairy Godmother (Mia Fryvecind Gimenez) began the series of transformations that elicited oohs and aahs throughout the show. Fryvecind Gimenez is stunning visually and vocally. She may sing of “fol-de rol and fiddle dee dee,” but nothing is impossible when she waves her wand over Ella, a pumpkin and animals, and urges everyone in the audience wielding a glowing wand, saber and tiara to add their light to her spells.

Scenic and lighting designer S. Benjamin Farrar has created the most magical scenery and special effects, complete with lighted baubles framing the stage. Joni Sackett’s costumes are gorgeous, light and airy; Joe Link’s puppets and masks loom large and enchanting; Megan Robinson’s choreography is balletic, regal and athletic; and Janelle Lauer leads her wonderful orchestra with expert aplomb.

Not enough can be said about Angie Toomsen’s direction, bringing whimsy and new life to a timeless tale. It’s most definitely possible, and audience members of all ages will be transformed and transfixed.

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