by Rodgers & Hammerstein
Directed by Greg Ganakas
North Shore Music Theatre
Dunham Woods, Beverly MA / (978) 232- 7200

Closed due to fire, AUGUST 2005
Remounted AUGUST 2006

New Direction by Charles Repole
Through Sept. 10, 2006
Reviewed by Will Stackman

The opening night in August 2005 of this lightweight R&H confection, originally written for live television, was definitely a success, especially with the scores of little princesses in the crowd, not to mention the students from NSMT youth program who got to be in the show. Unfortunately the next morning the news included a report of a fire in the theatre which closed the show and put the rest of North Shore's season in jeopardy. But Artistic Director Jon Kimbell announced a few days later that "Cinderella" would be back the following season, and NSMT commenced on rebuilding. Not only was this well-organized non-profit able to mount a appropriately barebones version of "The Full Monty" on their own stage in November, but through Herculean efforts NSMT transferred their Sept. and Oct. shows, a revival of "Abysinnia" in conjunction with Goodspeed as well as their own "Camelot," to the Shubert in downtown Boston. The adaptation from arena to proscenium worked better for the former, but both shows did well enough, busing down their subscribers and providing a freshness to last fall's season.

Their current production of "Cinderella" features silver-voiced and rather determined Deborah Lew in the title role, with Ryan Silverman, seen two seasons ago as Jimmy in "...Millie" as her Prince. The two don't really click until their final meeting when our heroine goes to find him. Better late than never. The biggest scene stealer this time is "Christmas Carol" regular Maureen Brennan as the Fairy Godmother. This BosCon faculty member and musical theatre veteran brings a touch of her no-nonsense Mrs. Cratchit to a role which can easily become "campy." She also doesn't have to ride off on a crescent moon as Annie Golden did last summer. The unclear development of this role makes one wish Oscar had had the time to expand the show, perhaps in the direction of its obvious predecessor, the light opera, "Cerentola." Terri Burrell, also seen in "...Millie", is again charming opposite NSMT favorite David Coffee's King. He doesn't use his native Texas accent--or cowboy boots--this time but has just a touch of Scrooge instead. Their new director, Charles Repole, has made the show more traditional, humanizing the action. Comedienne Lisa McMillan returns as the Stepmother but the Stepdaughters, ample Natalie Joy Johnson (Portia) and sniffling Joyce Chittick (Joy), are new. All three are played somewhat sympathetically, though with antics aplenty.

Other returning members in the ensemble including ace Pearlies, Debbi Fuhrman, who's the Footman and the Dance Captain plus TABB as the tallest gentleman in the court. Paul Gallagher is back as the Cook and Stepmother's old flame, while bass baritone Gregory Sheppard is again the extremely dignified Herald. These NSMT veterans no doubt made it easier for choreographer Karen Azenberg to refine her choreography. The "live TV" original didn't provide much opportunity for traditional Broadway efforts, but she gets a lot of mileage out of the gavotte.

Designer Dex Edwards, who's done more than a dozen settings NSMT--including his IRNE winning "Miss Saigon" complete with helicopter--has simplified the show somewhat from last summer, with Cinderella's glittering open-work coach as the major spectacle. The second half does need something before the wedding with its cloud of confetti, however. Costumer Joanna E. Murphy has reworked last years designs for the ensemble--the costume storage escaped the fire--and dressed the major characters more to Repole's vision of the show. Musical director Edward Reichert from the University of Southern Main once again gets a substantial sound from the pit appropriate to Rodgers' lush music. Martin Vreeland's lighting and John A. Stone's are fully up to NSMT's high standards.

This was definitely not the Disney version, though there are again two radio controlled white mice who metamorphose into the Coachman and Footman. NSMT, like the Reagle Players down the highway in Waltham, continues to develop a pool of talent, both local and imported who make up a company as well as a cast. It should be noted that Nicholas Rodriguez, who appeared opposite Sarah Schmidt in last summer's "Cinderella" returns next month as the lead in "Jesus Christ Superstar." The rebuilding from the fire has proceeded remarkably well, under the additional leadership of Robert Alpaugh, the new Executive Director of this non-profit enterprise, including a significant grant from the NEA to cover losses from the pit. Moreover, they've recently met their financial goal with a $500,000 grant from the Commonwealth, which should help pay for the new roof, watertight for the first time in years.

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