CENDRILLON AT CCM: A DREAM OF A SHOW
Sometime around 1695, the very serious Charles Perrault, decided to lighten up and write Mother Goose Tales, a collection of fairy tales for children that included among others Little Red Riding Hood, The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
Sometime around 1899 Perrault’s tale about the scullery maid who becomes a princess inspired French composer Jules Massenet to compose Cendrillon. Nothing in his output had prepared the public for something as delicate and humorous as Cendrillon.
At CCM Cendrillon is staged as a dream that becomes reality in a modern-dress production now on stage in Corbett Auditorium through Sunday.
Lucette (Grace Newberry) is a shy script girl working on a film shoot. She falls asleep on the set and dreams of meeting the prince of her dreams. Enter a friendly costume designer (Erica Intilangelo) who moonlights as a Fairy Godmother to script-girls in need. Yes, she can work things out for Lucette, get her a Dior couture party dress, a pair of golden high heel shoes, and even arrange a ride to the Prince’s ball in a scooter, the way they do in France. But there’s one condition: Lucette has to be back on the movie set by midnight.
When she awakens from her dream Lucette overhears the film crew discussing the starlet who not only stole the show the night before, but possibly even the handsome Prince’s heart.
As Cendrillon/Lucette Grace Newberry‘s stands out in voice and in poise, delivering a performance that balances humor and poignancy in equal measures. Picture-pretty Erica Intilangelo rides with ease the stratospheric heights of the role of the Fairy Godmother, dispensing perfect high notes like fairy dust. Kayleigh Decker, convincingly plays the pants role of the handsome movie idol turned Prince Charming and sings like a gossamer dream. Christian Pursell in the part of the henpecked Pandolphe, is note-perfect and poignant. The comical Nicole Hodgins as Noémie and Chelsea Melamed as Dorothée play two untalented wannabe actresses, daughters to the daunting Madame de La Haltière, an older battle-ax character actress sung by Karis Tucker, whose descents into contralto territory are hilarious and impressive.
Director Robin Guarino stylish and expansive directorial vision drives the show on its happy journey. The stage set by Thomas Unfrid’s seamlessly transforms itelf from reality into dream and back. The costumes by deign student Maria Lenn manage to be 1970’s in accuracy, terribly French and wacky all at once. Eric McCandless lights the show with glitzy flair, and the terrific wigs and make up by Shannon Hutchins are perfect when pretty and perfectly awful when called for. Marie France Lefevbre keeps the cast’s French Parisian, intelligible and singer-friendly. And, finally, the choreography of several sequences by Vincent De George is whimsically inventive and elegant.
The orchestra plays the score of the opera with nuance, conviction and flair, led by Mark Gibson whose peerless work at CCM and elsewhere continues to earmark him as a great opera conductor, one perfectly at home in the very French, very Romantic, very beautiful music of Massenet.
Productions like this one should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to CCM’s preeminence as one of America’s great conservatories. This Cendrillon, a dream of a show, is proof palpable “for real.” Those interested in an enchanting trip into fantasyland, so much needed these days, have three more performances to hop the ride.