Monday, April 11, 2011

Cinderella: A Never Ending Story

by Ashley Coates

The Cinderella story is perhaps the quintessential fairy tale. Her story is the most succinct and direct road from a life of poverty and neglect to a life of privilege and royalty. And maybe that’s one of the reasons that there are so many versions of her story—because at its core, it has a very simple plotline.
And now that I’m playing this iconic character, it got me thinking about all the different Cinderella stories I’ve seen and read, so I decided to make a list of my top 5 favorite movie versions of the story. And here they are:

Ever After (Twentieth Century Fox )
I’ll start with my favorite: The 1998 film Ever After staring Drew Barrymore. I love this female-empowered telling of the classic tale. Drew Barrymore is a very grounded and honest Cinderella, and Anjelica Huston is my favorite wicked stepmother of all-time. She’s cold and malicious, and then she has this beautiful moment of vulnerability. The scenery and costumes are gorgeous, and I love that in this magic-less version, Cinderella’s fairy godmother is replaced by Leonardo da Vinci.

The Glass Slipper (MGM)
My sister and I used to watch this version at our grandma’s house. This film was made in 1955 and stared the French ballet dancer Leslie Caron. She plays a very rough Cinderella (one with a very thick French accent I might add), and at times the look in her eyes is almost menacing. But that’s before she transforms into the cleaned-up ball gown Cinderella, of course. There are some beautiful dance sequences in this film, and her hoop skirts are awesomely enormous.
Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 1965 (CBS)

How could you talk about well-known Cinderella stories without talking about Rogers & Hammerstein? They wrote this musical specifically for Julie Andrews, who stared in the live televised broadcast in 1957. However, I grew up watching the 1965 remake with Leslie Ann Warren. I think I tried sporting a folded bandana in my hair for a while after seeing this movie. I couldn’t quite pull it off the way she did.

Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 1997 (Walt Disney Television)
What do Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander and Brandy have in common? The answer would be the 1997 remake of the remake of R&H’s Cinderella. And what’s not to love? Cinderella and her fairy godmother are pop stars, Victor Garber and Whoopi Goldberg are husband and wife, and Bernadette Peters is Bernadette Peters. The design is so colorful and fun, and Brandy’s blue eye shadow matches her ball gown perfectly. So there you go.
Disney’s Cinderella (Walt Disney Productions)

And then you have the classic Disney full-length animated feature. I still remember when my mom bought this movie on VHS and brought it home as a surprise. I was so excited. I had only seen it in the movie theater before that, and now I had my very own copy to watch whenever I wanted. Plus, you can sing along to a movie much louder in your house than you can in a movie theater.

And to see yet another version of the Cinderella story as well as variations on many classic fairy tales, you should come see Into the Woods at Seattle Musical Theatre, opening Friday April 29. Your favorite characters will cross paths, and their classic stories will extend beyond Happily Ever After.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chicago Razzle-Dazzles ‘em at Seattle Musical Theatre

By David-Edward Hughes for

It's been years since a local company has been able to land the rights to the mega-long run Broadway (and film) smash Chicago, and Seattle Musical Theatre has the boasting rights of being the first. SMT's non-Equity cast production doesn't quite have all that jazz, but it has more than enough to warrant your attendance, and the show itself (dare I say Kander & Ebb's best score?) is always worth a re-hearing.

By now, the tale Chicago spins (book by Fred Ebb) is pretty familiar. Set in the Windy City during the Roaring Twenties when a murder a day headlined the papers, it tells the (loosely fact based) tale of flapper fatale Roxie Hart, who guns down a lover and enters into a world where tabloid celebrity is king, and you better grab your 15 minutes of fame before the next scandal rocks the presses. Roxie is thrown into the Cook County jail where prison Matron Mama Morton shepherds a flock of Merry Murderesses, including reigning queen bee Velma Kelly. In no time, the deceptively demure Hart has Velma's ace lawyer Billy Flynn as her legal eagle, and sob-sister reporter Mary Sunshine sympathetically covering her every move, while her cuckolded sad-sack spouse Amos watches, invisibly, from the sidelines. Just when Hart's case threatens to take a backseat to the latest breaking story, she feigns pregnancy and goes into the courtroom loaded for bear. The verdict is scarcely announced when another hot murder hits town, leading Roxie and frenemy Velma to take their notoriety and head for a stage career. Bob Fosse's dark hued take on all this has been watered down a bit in various productions since the Encores! staging led to the still-running Broadway revival and the 2002 Oscar winning film, but director Ann Arends' entertaining take on the show leaves the Fosse vision more or less intact, with a principal cast that largely fills the bill.

As the pivotal Roxie Hart, Danielle Barnum is the real deal, a cool blonde charmer with a great voice and solid footwork, and she scores from beginning to end as the scheming Roxie, delivering her solos like "Funny Honey" and "Me and My Baby" with confident sizzle. In the showier role of Velma Kelly, Lindsey Larson may need a few years to grow into such roles, but she's a triple threat talent, nonetheless, who really sparkles in her duets "My Own Best Friend" and "Nowadays/Honey Rag" with Barnum, as well as her showcase numbers "I Can't Do It Alone" and "When Velma Takes the Stand."

Bradetta Vines is an ideal visual and vocal match for the unapologetically butch Mama Morton, and sells her "When You're Good to Mama" solo like a million bucks, before teaming with Larson to turn the raunchy ode to "Class" into an act two highpoint. Doug Knoop knowingly underplays poor soul Amos Hart, and sells the heck out of his "Mr. Cellophane" solo. And, as Mary Sunshine, R. McCabe is easily the equal of anyone I have ever seen in the role, delivering vocal pyrotechnics on the faux-maudlin "A Little Bit of Good." The only featured performance that left me wanting more was Troy Johnson, miscast as Billy Flynn. Johnson's sheer likability and youthful appearing presence are at odds with the Clarence Darrowish bent of the character, and the actor seems vocally overwhelmed by the demands of Billy's numbers.

The young ensemble isn't always up to the ambitions of choreographer Crystal Dawn Munkers' Fosse-fied choreography. The touchstone opening number "All That Jazz" is weakish, whereas the spunky "We Both Reached For the Gun" is both cleanly danced and vividly characterful. Director Arends misses by not letting Yusef Mahmoud as the entire Jury (a great bit when it works) play his takes and reaction out, making the scene about the hats he is wearing and not allowing the actor to simply inhabit the many faces of the jurors. Musical Director Paul Linnes' small but savory band does justice to the score of the show, though I found some of his tempos way to brisk for the insinuating styles of the songs. Dan Suiter's set design is the best looking I have seen at SMT in some years, and is well met by Richards Schaefer's noirish lighting design. Costume designer Deane Middleton has caught the right jazz age tone in her apparel, and especially gives Roxie and Velma some knockout outfits.

More of a full production than the hit Broadway revival and tour ever seemed, SMT's Chicago is a fast, fun, down & dirty diversion that contrasts well with the abundance of cozy holiday family fare arriving at our theatres the next few weeks.

Chicago runs through December 4, 2010, at Seattle Musical Theatre, Building #47, Magnuson Park. For more information go to


Friday, October 22, 2010

"Can you imagine? I mean, can you imagine?"

Hi folks! Doug Knoop here, I'm playing Amos Hart ("Mr. Cellophane") in Seattle Musical Theatre's production of "Chicago."

Just a note to let you know that rehearsals are chugging along just fine. I got to watch some of our oh-so-talented cast run-through both the "I Know a Girl" and "Me and My Baby" numbers last night. Our choreographer, Crystal Dawn-Munkers, is doing amazing work. You are in for a treat.

As for me? You'll never even know I'm there....

We open Nov. 12th (that's three weeks from today). Call 206-363-2809, or click the SMT link to the right, for ticket information.

Danielle Barnum as Roxie, Troy Johnson as Billy and Lindsey Larson as Velma

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Good, Isn't It? Grand, Isn't It?

Ladies & Geraniums, this is Little Mary Sunshine welcoming you to the madcap world of CHICAGO: THE MUSICAL, presented by Seattle Musical Theatre.

For my very first post, I present you with a delightful video of Miss Liza Minnelli performing "Nowadays" on Dinah Shore's television program (complete with Kander & Ebb....and a very special guest).

Stay tuned for some delightful tidbits from myself and several very special guests from the company.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


The songs are already completely stuck in my head... and I'm happy about it! Chicago is one of my favorite shows and I could not be more pleased to be working on it with this team and cast!

We're off to a great start: music rehearsals are going well and designs are coming together. Tonight will be our first dance rehearsal and I can't wait to see what our choreographer, Crystal Dawn Munkers has in store for our fantastic cast.

Please join us on our journey to the roaring '20s. It's gonna be great!