Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” playing at the Broadway Theatre at 53rd Street and Broadway, currently stars Keke Palmer in the role of Ella, and this young lady is wonderful. Palmer has a sweet, charming stage presence. Her voice is lovely, and she is simply a delight to watch on stage. She delivers each song with a delightful vocal tone. She carries the role with grace and beauty.
Sherri Shepherd plays Madame, the wicked stepmother, and she lives up to the role. At times I felt like she was trying too hard; there were definitely moments of overacting in the first act, but she seemed more relaxed in the role by the second act.
This production is such a marvelous fairytale and something that everyone can enjoy. Another African-American in the cast, who has been in the production from the beginning, is Phumzile Sojola, who plays Lord Pinkleton, and he is fantastic. His operatic singing voice is enchanting.
Palmer, Shepherd and Sojola are joined on stage by a superb cast of performers, including Judy Kate, who plays the fairy godmother and who has a great operatic voice. Original cast members Stephanie Gibson and Ann Harada are well cast, and Joe Carroll is cast as the Prince and his voice is marvelous. I just wondered a bit about the casting though, because Palmer is so young and beautiful, and the prince just looked so much older. As a couple, they took some getting used to. Todd Buonopane plays Jean-Michel, a revolutionary fighting for the rights of the people, and he is very good in the role.
This production is definitely pursuing nontraditional casting with Palmer and Shepherd in these roles, but it’s a shame that the audience didn’t readily accept this casting. An issue I had at the performance I attended was that the audience wasn’t the most receptive. Palmer was on stage singing and dancing her heart out—and the audience just sat there. There were showstopper moments in the first act that people sat silently and watched. It really felt uncomfortable to have the audience react so coldly.
Thankfully, after intermission, people warmed up to Palmer and gave her the reactions that her worthy performance deserved. By the end of the production, they gave a standing ovation.
For ticket information, visit CinderellaOnBroadway.com.