For many years, the Fresno-area theater community was blessed with the presence of Ashley Taylor. She was known for many things, among them: 1) her terrific voice; 2) her warm and generous stage presence; and 3) her complete and utter fixation with All Things Royal. I became aware of Ashley’s passion for princesses gradually over time — a Facebook post here, a genuflection to the Disney canon there — and knew that if I ever needed to call on someone with expertise on anything to do with tiaras, she’d be my source.
Ashley (yes, she is on a first-name basis with this blog) now lives in a land of highrise castles called Manhattan and goes to local theater there (um, Broadway) on a regular basis, but she’ll always be connected to the hamlet of Fresno’s theater scene. Which is why I asked her to help me preview the national tour of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” which opens Tuesday, May 16, at the Saroyan Theatre. (I also asked her to give us a bonus royal update on Broadway’s new “princess hit,” the musical “Anastasia.”)
She tells me:
It’s time to break out the tiaras! I saw the show twice on Broadway and was completely enchanted (pun intended). So if you’re going, or thinking about going, here are five things to know. (No spoilers, obviously. I’m not like that).
Take it away, Ashley:
1. The costumes. William Ivey Long designed them (and won the Tony for them) and they’re STUNNING. Lush, gorgeous fabrics. And just when you’re thinking everything looks so magical… the costumes actually BECOME magical. Without giving anything away, let’s just say you will gasp and cheer a couple of times. Magic fabric. It’s a thing.
‘Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,’ 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, and Wednesday, May 17, Saroyan Theatre. $33-$73.
2. The music!! If you’re familiar with the score from the film versions (whether you prefer Julie, Lesley or Brandy), all your favorite stuff is in there. But then there are the NEW songs. Well, new to us. This version of Cinderella features songs like “Me” (cut from “Me and Juliet”) and “Now is the Time” (cut from “South Pacific”). If you like R&H, you’ll love all of it.
3. New characters! This version beefs up the story a bit with the introduction of some new characters, most notably the revolutionary Jean-Michele, who wants the prince to know what life is really like for most of the kingdom. (The stakes in general are much higher in this version. It’s not just the usual “The prince needs to get married because we need a plot device” situation).
4. There are animal friends! Sadly, this doesn’t include mice who sing and surprise her with a dress. But you won’t miss Gus-Gus TOO much, because there are fantastic (and acrobatic!) moments with some other animal friends to tide you over.
5. Speaking of Disney … This show is incredibly self-aware. It knows it’s not the Disney version, but it’s not afraid to have some fun with classic characters we know. Without giving anything away … just be on the lookout for a cameo of sorts.
Bonus: ‘Anastasia’ on Broadway
Let’s chat for a minute about Broadway’s current princess. “Anastasia” is reigning at the Broadhurst Theater, and she’s a delight, especially if you’re a fan of the movie. This is another show where you just can’t get over the (Tony nominated!) costumes, and do not get me started on the TIARAS. (It turns out, the Romanovs did not mess around when it comes to diamonds). Add an Ahrens & Flaherty score (the team who wrote “Ragtime”) into the mix, and it’s just fantastic.
Disclaimer: Sadly, Bartok the bat is not in this version, which means the production team missed a HUGE opportunity to create a show-stopping number that I can only assume would be titled “And I’d kick her, sir.” But instead you get a Bolshevik played by Ramin Karimloo, so all is not lost.
Update: Read Donald’s review of “Cinderella” at the Saroyan here.
More about our guest blogger: Ashley Taylor is a journalist in New York who covers Broadway and Royals when she’s not covering politics. Her knowledge of all things royal is only heightened by her hands-on experience — she played Cinderella in “Into the Woods,” Countess Charlotte Malcolm in “A Little Night Music,” was a Duchess in the East Texas Yamboree in high school (yes, that’s a real thing), and was officially titled “Lady Ashley” in a particularly incredible birthday gift. She lives in Manhattan with her husband Anthony and son Archie, who is currently obsessed with strong women leaders — namely Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Princess Leia and Moana.
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