Charming ‘Cinderella’ swirls with romance, whimsy

It’s a tale as old as time that’s been told a hundred ways, but few are as liltingly charming as “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”

Onstage in a brief run at SHN Orpheum Theatre, the tour is a version of a show that began as a live TV broadcast in 1957 starring Julie Andrews at the height of her “My Fair Lady” fame. It was reprised on television in 1965 with Lesley Ann Warren and again in 1997 with Brandy Norwood.

The score is not outstanding considering the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon, but it does offer earwormy goodness in Cinderella’s plaintive “In My Own Little Corner” and the waltz-time romance of “Ten Minutes Ago.”

For its Broadway debut in 2013, Oscar Hammerstein’s sugary original book got some delightfully anachronistic bite courtesy of a makeover by Douglas Carter Beane (“Xanadu,” “The Nance”). Some lines feel particularly apt in light of current news: “That man? A world leader?” marvels Ella (Kaitlyn Davidson) incredulously on first meeting Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones). “He appears to have a heart, a mind, and a soul!”

The large cast is solid. Davidson and Jones charm as the lovers. Other character sketches are nicely filled in by Blake Hammond as the Prince’s self-serving advisor, Lauren Sprague as the wackadoodle Marie who becomes Ella’s fairy godmother in a brilliant and wicked-fast costume trick, Blair Ross as Ella’s really evil stepmother, and Lulu Picart and Kimberly Fauré as the respectively sassy and sympathetic stepsisters.

Honorable mention also goes to Chauncey Packard’s vocal chops on “The Prince is Giving a Ball.”

The production is romantic and impressive with full moons and swirling staircases in a wonderfully fluid scenic design by Anna Louizos, complemented by a lush palette of costumes from William Ivey Long.

Scenes flow nicely under Mark Brokaw’s direction, which keeps the treacle at bay without breaking the mood, focusing just the right amount of light on Beane’s front-and-center script revisions.

By the end of the Act 1, audiences are caught up in swirling skirts (dances by Josh Rhodes) until the clock strikes midnight and intermission leaves them hanging as breathlessly as the Prince watching Ella retreat.

Act 2 bogs down with a lot of plot before (spoiler alert) ending happily ever after. Aspiring princess theatergoers in sparkly outfits began to fidget in their seats before the big bridal gown reveal snapped them back to attention for the feel-good finale.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 5-6, 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 7, 2 p.m. May 7-8
Tickets: $45 to $212
Contact: (888) 746-1799,

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