TWO MUSICALS now onstage in the area will leave you thoroughly entertained and kicking up your heels: CINDERELLA downtown at the Boston Opera House, and BILLY ELLIOT up at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. Grab the kids and go and you’ll ALL have a good time! These are excellent productions, wonderfully staged with live orchestras and a big emphasis on DANCE, and you have one more week to see them!
RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA is an absolute hoot! The book (Douglas Carter Beane) has been punched up with a “social justice” agenda (the townspeople must have their say!), and a contemporary sensibility: “I just wish I was doing something more important with my life,” moans Prince “Topher” (short for “Christopher”) in his opening line. Later, Cinderella (remonikered “Ella”) gushes,”Quit it, you!” as she swoons over the Prince. They are each gorgeous and a tad gawky, with a gosh-golly-gee endearingness that makes them perfectly suited to each other and the tone of the whole show. Paige Faure and Andy Huntington Jones swept each other and the audience off its feet, especially during the big dance sequence at the ball, where we actually see them fall in love, in between a heady waltz and the delirious stroke of midnight. The choreography and vocals throughout, are enchanting and high energy– this touring cast is on fire. The sets and magically transforming costumes are rich, mysterious, and oh so beautiful, with twinkling lights, a deep dark forest and a full moon above shining on yards of tulle below.
This cast boasts major vocal and acting chops, from the oddly mismatched stepsisters, one hugely over the top, the other goofily be-spectacled (Aymee Garcia and Kaitlyn Davidson), to the saintly fairy godmother Marie (Liz McCartney), and a hilariously wicked stepmother (Beth Glover) who spews her loony spite in all directions. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW– with loads of memorable R + H tunes. Didn’t expect to love it; I did. Through October 11 at Boston Opera House.
Then head on up to the north shore to see BILLY ELLIOT The Musical, a fairy tale rooted in the gritty reality of a British coal mining town during Thatcher era England where the unions were being crushed and social justice is at stake. Billy Elliot (the adorable and talented Brooks Landegger, one of two young men who alternate in the part) is a young motherless boy who is being raised by his widowed coal-mining father and older brother (the excellent Timothy Gulan and CJ Eldred), and a dotty grandmother (the poignant Sarah deLima). Their world is in turmoil as jobs are on the line, and in the middle of all it, Billy finds himself more attracted to ballet than boxing! He decides to secretly pursue this interest under the guidance of a chain smoking, plain talking ballet teacher (the feisty, funny Janet Dickinson) who spots a spark in Billy.
The explosive reactions to Billy’s talent, the effect it has on his family as well as the larger community is a touching expression of the power of art and way self-expression leads to tolerance. The show is beautifully staged in the round with some extraordinarily inventive choreography. In one number, Billy, the miners, policemen, and tiny ballerinas are all onstage and intertwined in one dance at the same time, in a number that integrates Elton John’s deeply melodic score with ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics and even folk dancing. We see them all dancing separately yet together, unique and universal, their steps interlocking in one big production number. Suddenly, we understand the physical, emotional and spiritual possibilities of very different people coming together, on the same plane, in the same world. It’s a brilliant synthesis of theme and execution. The show will make your heart break and sing at the same time. SEE BILLY ELLIOT The Musical through OCTOBER 11 at NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE!