Cinderella The 1957 Version at Paramount will confuse the audience not knowing its not the Disney version

Mikayla Renfrow plays Cinderella and Markcus Blair is Prince Christopher, both making their Paramount Theatre debut in Cinderella, directed by Brenda Didier, November 10, 2021-January 9, 2022. For tickets and information, visit ParamountAurora.com, or call the box office, (630) 896-6666. Credit: Liz Lauren

Let us start by saying to the audience coming to this production of Cinderalla at Paramount Theater; make sure you know this is not the Disney version of Cinderella. Although teleplays adapted to the stage are never precisely the same as movies or television, Disney’s Cinderella, produced in 1950, which many may be expecting to see, Paramount’s Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Cinderella stage play from 1957 is a different version. We mention this now because we heard the confusion and even spoke with a couple from Iowa, thinking this was the Disney version. 

As the story goes, NBC initially approached Rodgers and Hammerstein, asking them to write an original musical for television. However, when they learned that CBS was looking for the same musical production and signed Julie Andrews to play Cinderella, they signed with CBS. Both versions (Disney & Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cinderella) follow French author Charles Perrault’s moral storyline, of a young woman forced into a life of servitude by her cruel stepmother and egotistical stepsisters.

Mikayla Renfrow plays Cinderella and Markcus Blair is Prince Christopher, both making their Paramount Theatre debut in Cinderella, directed by Brenda Didier, November 10, 2021-January 9, 2022. For tickets and information, visit ParamountAurora.com, or call the box office, (630) 896-6666. Credit: Liz Lauren

After her father dies, young Cinderella (Mikayla Renfrow) finds herself at the mercy of her wicked stepmother (Sarah Bockel) and stepsisters (Jacquelyne Jones & Tiffiany T. Taylor), who make her their maid. Even though Cinderella is unsuccessfully trying to win their love and acceptance, she refuses to believe she is worthless. Learning a ball will be at the palace to meet Prince Christopher (Markcus Blair) seeking a bride, she dreams of meeting the prince and being the new Queen, not realizing they had previously met. Knowing that she had thoughts of coming to the ball, where Lionel has requested every eligible young maiden in the kingdom attend, her stepmother prevents her from going. But all is not lost when her fairy godmother transforms her into a princess and finds her prince. 

Paramount followed the 1997 version of the CBS remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s (R&H) Cinderella in 1997, which featured a multiracial cast, starred Whitney Houston and Brandy. R&H productions include more music & singing than Disney with classic songs like “10 Minutes Ago,” “The Prince Is Giving A Ball,” and “Boys And Girls Like You And Me.” 

Jerica Exum, the Fairy Godmother, is different in age and looks from the older Disney godmother. She is not as nurturing and sweet as the Disney character but more like a counselor helping Cinderella find her courage to be whatever she wants to be. “Now, you can go wherever you want to go. Now you can do whatever you want to do. Now you can be whoever you want to be.” Also, the R&H version provides a more visible insight into the stepfamily and why they are so mean and even jealous of Cinderella. 

Fairy Godmother (Jerica Exum) makes a surprise appearance before Cinderella (Mikayla Renfrow) in Paramount Theatre’s Cinderella, directed by Brenda Didier, November 10, 2021-January 9, 2022. For tickets and information, visit ParamountAurora.com, or call the box office, (630) 896-6666. Credit: Liz Lauren

A bright spot was the stage presence of Mikayla and Markcus as Cinderella and Christopher the Prince. Seeing a biracial young love story allows our future generation of children to be more open to our differences and more willing to engage with others different than themselves. Yet, the moral story stays the same, and with more than 1500 versions of this tale worldwide and in many languages, the message is as important today as ever. We all want and need love and should equally be accepted regardless of who we are. 

Sarah Bockel (center) plays Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Tiffany T. Taylor (left) is stepsister Joy, and Jacquelyne Jones plays stepsister Grace in Paramount Theatre’s Cinderella, directed by Brenda Didier, November 10, 2021-January 9, 2022. For tickets and information, visit ParamountAurora.com, or call the box office, (630) 896-6666. Credit: Liz Lauren

One of our favorite performances, Lorenzo Rush Jr, is outstanding as Lionel. Rush, who was featured in “Five Guys Named Moe, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Memphis and Little Shop of Horrors,” provided the comic laughter to help bring a little excitement to this melancholy production.     

The success of this play depends on the audience Paramount is trying to reach. If it’s children, then, regrettably, this production lacks the energy needed to keep them entertained for over two hours. Instead, we could hear and see several fidgety kids talking, moving, and kicking at seats, with parents frantically trying to reel them back into watching the play. Unfortunately, Paramount’s Cinderella production dropped the ball by not adding thrilling moments or special effects to help parents. The animated mouse, cat, and duck were cute but only provided a few minutes of the kids’ attention. 

However, if they were gearing this to those over fifty, it may prove successful as people within that age seemed thoroughly entrenched in this play which brought them back to their childhood. Either way, kids will be excited about hearing that they will see Cinderella even if they get a little disappointed with Paramount’s version of this play. 

Let’s Play Recommends Cinderella at Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL. But make sure your kids have seen the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella. 

Paramount Theatre Presents

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s

Cinderella

Books and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Music by Richard Rodgers

Playing Now until January 9, 2022

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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