By Michael P Coleman

This ain’t your grandma’s Cinderella!

The second of this summer’s Broadway At Music Circus productions surprised on a number of fronts, and shocked on one or two others. If you hadn’t planned on seeing this production because you thought you knew how it was all going to go down, it’s time to reconsider that!

Yes, there’s the requisite poor maiden who’s being raised by an evil stepmother, the dashing prince, the fairy godmother, and the glass slipper: all of the things that make this Cinderella…Cinderella-y. There are the great singing voices that come with any Rodgers & Hammerstein version of the story (led here by the charming Kathryn Brunner as Ella, Brent Thiessen as Topher, and Rebecca Robins as Marie). And there are the flawless production elements that have made Broadway At Music Circus a regional stand-out for decades. The dress transformations…oops, that may have been a spoiler!…drew gasps and cheers.

Jordan Beall, Kathryn Brunner as Ella, Garett Hawe, Rebecca Robbin’s as Marie and the company at UC Davis Health Pavilion. Photo by Charr Crall.

Robbins in particular has a voice that’s almost operatic in range and scale, delivering “There’s Music In You” with all of the power and passion that the late Whitney Houston first brought to the tune during the classic 1996 television production.

With regard to overall performances, Brittney Mack almost stole the show from our dear Cinderella, with the most quirky, crazy evil stepsister, Charlotte, that I’ve ever seen. Even her entrances and exits from the stage were hysterical. I’m a new fan.

Terry Burrell as Madame, Kathryn Brunner as Ella, Brittney Mack as Charlotte and Kelley Downey as Gabrielle at the UC Davis Health Pavilion. Photo by Kevin Graft.

But there is where the similarities between this production and every other Cinderella you’ve known end with the wave of a magic wand.

The book to this one’s been completely rewritten. Have you ever seen a Cinderella where the prince doesn’t search for his love after the ball? How about a ball that ends without Cinderella losing her glass slipper?

Cinderella — or Ella, in this production — has been afforded an agency for which the world wasn’t ready in 1955, when the musical was written, that 2023 audiences will appreciate. You’ll want to stick around until the very end, if only because given the changes to the book, Ella’s final line will leave you smiling all the way back home.

And I have to add that I loved the order of the songs in this version! “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” are two of my all-time favorite songs from any musical, but at the risk of sounding like I think I’m a Richard Rodgers or an Oscar Hammerstein II, I’ve not known a production to get their placement right. This one does.

If you’re a fan of this story — or of musical theatre — you need to see this one! But move quickly! The clock strikes midnight on this Cinderella on Sunday, July 2. Tickets, and information on the balance of this summer’s Broadway at Music Circus season, are at


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