LA HABRA — A lovesick prince with nothing left of his dream but a single slipper. The poor young woman who lost the slipper before returning to her life of cinders and sadness. And a happy ending. That's the holiday tale told at La Habra Depot Theatre, in Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella." And, with all the rewritten Scrooges and other usual staples running rampant elsewhere, it's a dandy choice.
Originally presented on television in the middle '50s, "Cinderella" doesn't have the body or weight of R & H's other shows, and contains probably their least memorable score, but it turns out to be a delightful greeting card as the season fades.
Even its most popular songs ("Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful" and "Keep It Gay") are rarely heard today. But, like the rest of the score, they remain listenable (in spite of Hammerstein's most simplistic lyric in "Do I Love You. . . . "). And a bevy of excellent voices sometimes make the tunes sound more inventive than they are.
Director Larry Watts guides the piece with a straight face, all to its benefit. He only allows his King (Ralph Ohlsen) a bit of camp, and though he may have allowed the stepmother and her nasty daughters (Georgina Lewis, Susanna Johnson, Holly Wolcott) too much camp, it's not as overboard as it could have been.
Watts also designed the workable set, helped with the minimal lighting (with Leo Soderman) and extravagantly ornate costumes (with Stephanie Thomas and Tom Phillips). In spite of Kai Chubb's static choreography, the look of the production couldn't be more pleasing, especially for the many younger audience members. It is, after all, a children's story and a children's show. Watts even has some audience interaction, such as trying the lost slipper on several females sitting on the aisles before they strike gold at the evil stepmother's cottage.
What makes the show equally for adults is the tone of the melodies and their lyrics ("A Lovely Night," the best song in the score, is a bit intricate for small kids to follow). The intricacies are made less so by vocal clarity, even when some of the supporting cast has trouble hitting some of the notes square on.
The joy is in the leads, with David Frederick Fogg's rich, flawless baritone, as the dashing Prince, and Adriana Sanchez's strong, crystalline musical-comedy voice, as the beleaguered Cinderella. Bonnie Moran is also memorable as a dulcet-voiced Godmother.
Without Santa or Scrooge, the show's one message does just fine for the Christmas just past, and the brave new year that's beginning: anything can happen, as Cinderella and her Godmother sing at the end of Act I, "It's Possible."
A La Habra Depot Theatre production of the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein Jr. musical. Directed by Larry Watts. With Adriana Sanchez, David Frederick Fogg, Bonnie Moran, Ralph Ohlsen, Margaret Tolberg, Georgina Lewis, Susanna Johnson, Holly Wolcott. Musical direction & orchestration: Randy Woltz. Choreography: Kai Chubb. Set: Larry Watts. Costumes: Larry Watts, Stephanie Thomas, Tom Phillips. Lighting: Leo Soderman, Larry Watts. At La Habra Depot Theatre, 301 S. Euclid Ave., La Habra. Fridays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. Ends Jan. 16. $10; (310) 691-8900 or (310) 905-9708. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.