PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Cinderella; The Very Best Foot Forward

By Harry Haun
04 Mar 2013

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Goodman also picked The Prince (called here Topher, short for R&H’s Christopher). He was closer at hand, in Stephen Karam’s Pulitzer-contending Sons of the Prophet, which she had produced Off-Broadway: Santino Fontana, who never sang a note in a show till he hit New York and was cast in The Fantasticks.

“That’s right,” he nods. “It was all drama at the Guthrie—no musicals, a lot of Shakespeare. I’d just done Hamlet when I came here. I was always singing on the side, of course, but I’d never done a musical. I was too busy doing Ibsen.”

But the songs are a definite attraction for him in this show—particularly a pair of evergreens R&H planted back in ’57: “Ten Minutes Ago,” an unfolding, enveloping waltz, and the haunting, searching “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”

Fontana admits a little reluctance about taking up his princely poses, but he says the script has made it easier than he imagined it would be. “I think Doug has combined a classic story with a very contemporary voice, but still there are some classic lines. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a Kaufman and Hart play because the lines are so earnest and you just have to go there. The Prince reminds me of the teenager in O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! who does that ‘God, I love you so much.’ He gets caught up in his own passion. But Doug has given me the freedom to play around with that.”

An actor even newer to the musical world is Greg Hildreth, the first person ever play to the woodsy rabble-rouser, Jean-Michel (the role never existed until this production).

In fact, “More or less, this is my debut, showing that I can sing a little bit. I was in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, but we really didn’t have to sing pretty for that. My song, ‘Now Is the Time,’ was cut from South Pacific but exists in some underscoring.”

Prior to this, Hildreth counted himself just an actor. In Peter and the Starcatcher, he was a ditzy deputy off whom Tony winner Christian Borle bounced his Captain Stash. Getting the girl is also a new phenomenon for him. “I’m always the unlikely one.”

The girl in this case is Gabrielle, Cinderella’s good sister—another break with the storytelling tradition but one that exists in Charles Perrault’s original 1691 French yarn. This twist in expectations is what drew Marla Mindelle to the part. “She’s a true three-dimensional character, I believe—shy and quirky and neat. She brings a heart and joy to the show. She’s not evil, which everyone expects. In other versions, the sisters were a gang of two—trouble and mean and nasty to Cinderella. I do like the fact I try to help her in this version.” She also helps her with a reprise of “A Lovely Night” and joins her Jean-Michel for another round of “Now Is the Time.”