Rodgers and Hammerstein's charming 1957 TV musical has been turned into nearly perfect stage entertainment that will appeal to viewers of every age and persuasion. This touring production--directed by Gabriel Barre and scripted by Tom Briggs and Robert L. Freedman--boasts boldly colored storybook scenic design, elegant and outrageous costumes, impressive special effects, and delightfully imaginative puppetry: the mice, birds, and cat that assist Cinderella in her transformation from drudge to debutante are rod puppets wittily manipulated and voiced by a six-man team of actors. The bubbly score (including "It's Possible!"--perhaps the quintessential expression of Hammerstein's cockeyed optimism) is one of the famous team's most tuneful efforts; the durable numbers (including interpolations from No Strings, Allegro, and other sources) stand up quite well in musical supervisor Andrew Lippa's updated pop stylings. The terrific cast is headed by Deborah Gibson and Paolo Montalban, a picturesque pair of fairy-tale lovers, and Eartha Kitt, exotic and charismatic as the fairy godmother. But it's the outlandishly bewigged trio of comic villains who steal the show: Natasha Yvette Williams and Alexandra Kolb as Cinderella's vain, stupid stepsisters and the brilliant Everett Quinton as the domineering stepmother. An off-Broadway icon from his years with the pioneering, gender-bending Ridiculous Theatrical Company, Quinton makes his character a grand grotesque who invites both scorn and sympathy in her attempts to empower her ugly idiot offspring by squelching Cinderella's spirit. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, 312-902-1400. Through January 21: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 and 7 PM. Then January 23 through 28: Tuesday, 7:30 PM; Wednesday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday-Sunday, 2 and 8 PM. $20-$70.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carol Rosegg.