Ever After

Paper Mill Playhouse - Millburn, NJ - June 2015
Review by John Kenrick

The story of Cinderella has had countless incarnations on stage and screen, but few were as fresh and disarming as Ever After, the 1998 film starring Drew Barrymore as the impoverished orphaned girl who finds royal romance despite the ruthless machinations of her formidable stepmother, Anjelica Huston. What set this version apart was the absence of a fairy godmother -- the closest thing to magic was provided by the creative genius of Leonardo Da Vinci, who happens to be on hand to advise both the handsome prince and his beloved.

It is a joy to report that Ever After has been deftly adapted into a musical that boasts delightful music, unusually witty lyrics, and enough human magic to make for a wonderful evening's entertainment. The latest in a series of new works to premiere at Paper Mill Playhouse, it has definite potential as a future Broadway project -- and promises to give audiences of all ages something to cheer for.

Zina Goldrich has provided a fresh, melodic and often delicious score that is sure to please even the most discerning theatre lovers. Marcy Hisler's lyrics are filled with humor and genuine emotion, and her libretto captures all the best qualities of the film while adding some fine moments of her own. Broadway veteran Kathleen Marshall directs with her usual sure hand, keeping the action clear and focused all the way, so that this new show flows as seamlessly as a proven hit.

The cast is top notch. Margo Seibert is a treasure as Danielle, the girl who sleeps in the cinders but dreams of landing a prince. She is perfectly matched by handsome James Snyder as Prince Henry -- their duet "Out of the Darkness" was a highlight, and their performances made this unconventional take on a well known legend great fun from start to finish.

Tony winner Christine Ebersole is having a grand time as the stepmother, Baroness Rodmilla, hurling coloratura high notes and hilarious dialogue in all directions -- and making her character thoroughly sympathetic and hateful all at the same time. Charles Shaugnessy, who was Mr. Sheffield on the long running sitcom The Nanny, is hilarious as King Frances, aided by the always reliable comic brilliance of Julie Halston as his queen.

Mara Davi and Annie Funke are superb as the stepsisters, Andrew Keenan-Bolger is thoroughly winning as a servant with artistic talents, and Tony Sheldon is irresistible as Leonardo, making the most of some great comic moments.

The multi-tiered set by Derek McLane relies heavily on projections to indicate different locations -- decently done, but the effect can't help looking cheap. The sword fights looked under-rehearsed and almost amateurish. Something better will be needed if this show is to have a future across the Hudson. Peter Kaczorowski's lighting is luscious, as are Jess Goldstein's costumes. Bruce Coughlin's orchestrations are excellent, and David Gardos did an excellent job conducting.

Ever After is a grand bit of fun for audiences of all ages, and has enough human magic to make any supernatural folderol quite unnecessary. Here's hoping it has a long and stellar future ahead of it!

This production runs through June 21, 2015.

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