"Cinderella," one of the world’s
most enduring and beloved fairy tales - which plays through Dec.
20 at the Heights Players - has a history as interesting as the
One of the earliest versions of the story of the beautiful youngest daughter abused by her jealous stepmother and her ugly stepsisters, dates back to ninth-century China. More than 500 variations of the story have been recorded in Europe, the most famous of which appeared in Charles Perrault’s "Contes de mon mere l’oye" (1697) or "Tales of Mother Goose," from which the English version is translated.
In Perrault’s version, Cinderella’s fairy godmother appears and provides the clothing and carriage that allow Cinderella to go to the ball where she will meet the prince. But in most versions of the story, the supernatural helper is Cinderella’s dead mother, or an animal sent by her mother to help her beleaguered offspring.
Likewise, the agency of a glass slipper by which the prince recognizes the cinder girl as the fair young maid he met at the ball is unique in Perrault; in other versions, it is a golden or silver slipper or ring that helps the prince recognize his beloved.
Additionally, the details of the complete story - often replete with gruesome accounts of how the elder sisters attempted to fit their large feet into the tiny slipper or how they were eventually punished - are most often omitted from many children’s versions.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein 1959 television version - now at the Heights Players, directed by Jim McNulty - starring Julie Andrews as Cinderella, Jon Cypher as the Prince, Edie Adams as the Fairy Godmother and Ilka Chase as the Stepmother, is one of the milder, and certainly one of the more musical versions of "Cinderella." [Rossini’s opera, "La Cenerentola (1817) is based on a modified version of the story.]
Happily, the Heights Players have kept much of the splendor that characterized the television incarnations of "Cinderella" (in 1965, starring Leslie Ann Warren as Cinderella, Stuart Damon as the Prince, Celeste Holm as the Stepmother, Walter Pidgeon as the King, and Ginger Rogers as the Queen; and in 1997, starring pop star Brandy in the title role with a multi-ethnic supporting cast that included Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, Bernadette Peters as the Stepmother and Whoopi Goldberg as the Queen - wearing $60 million in borrowed Harry Winston jewelry.)
In the Heights Players version, Albert Walsh has provided a wardrobe of lavish gowns and tunics that show lots of male leg. And Robert J. Weinstein does wonders lighting the miraculous events.
Charlotte Delaney stars as Cinderella. She’s everything the title character should be: sweet and innocent with a powerful set of lungs for songs like "In My Own Little Corner" and "Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?"
Sharon Wyse as the Queen and Michael Blake as the King are a mature and affectionate counterweight to the Prince and Cinderella’s starry-eyed love.
But, of course, it’s the evil characters that have all the fun. This reviewer particularly liked the sullen stance taken by Zehra Abdi, who plays the not-so-aptly named Joy.
Tina Throckmorton, who has previously been seen at the Heights Players as Fiona MacLaren in "Brigadoon" and Queen Guenevere in "Camelot," adds a welcome dash of sarcasm as the fairy godmother to this otherwise saccharine tale. And, of course, her awesome soprano voice is always appreciated.
It’s the holiday season, a time of warmth and cheer. And what is warmer, what is more cheerful than that greatest rags-to-riches story ever told? So put on your scarf and mittens, and round up the kids. Then bundle everyone into a car (if you haven’t got a carriage) and herd them off to see Cinderella and the Prince make their magic one more time.
The Heights Players production of "Cinderella" runs through Dec. 20, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $15, $13 students and seniors. The Heights Players are located at 26 Willow Place between State and Joralemon streets in Brooklyn Heights. For more information, call (718) 237-2752.