“Cinderella,” currently screening on Amazon Prime, is a pulsating rendering clearly for the 21st century generation, with a familiar tale retold for the Me-Gen crowd.
It opens with a thumping redo of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” with a dancing hip-hop crowd, quickly providing a wow factor that might surprise traditionalists. No bibbidi-bobbidi-boo here; clearly, this is not your grandma’s Ella.
Camila Cabello, the Cuban-American pop singer, swiftly introduces herself as the titular character, delivering Des’ree’s“You Gotta Be,” setting her personal tone, tempo and theme to come.
As a film musical, it’s a mixed bag of new and old melodies, with the familiar likely to be more popular than the newbies.
As written and directed by Kay Cannon, from an idea by James Corden (he doubles as an exec-producer, and appears as one of mice-turned-coachmen when Ella heads to the ball), the update embraces a woman’s viewpoint of making her own life choices.
Familiar voices and names abound, punctuating values and versatility; it might be hodge-podge, but in the end, it all works because Cabello brings innocence and hope to the party. Yes, she’s the reluctant princess with a penchant for designing gowns, and she’s not interested in becoming a trophy bride. Perhaps not till the finale, anyway.
The ingredients are all here: the stepmother, Vivian, not so wicked in Idina Menzel’s interpretation. And yes, hers is a wholly wonderful vocal instrument, a la her Broadway creds in “Wicked,” but Pierce Brosnan as King Rowan is no better or worse than his “Mamma Mia” stint, but he fits the mold as the rigid royal who lacks ambition. Minnie Driver is Queen Beatrice, who isn’t given much to do, but comes out with the most relevant posture of credibility late in the party.
Clearly the jewel of the project is Billy Porter as the Fairy Godmother, visually and vocally a piece of skillful work in his gilded finery of a gown.
Since this is a princess tale, not a prince’s story, Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Robert has the dubious task of dimming his headlights, not overshadowing Ella. He’s not a bad singer, however, but the rigidity of the Cinderella plot disallows romantic legitimacy. He goes searching for the midnight maiden, but the quest is reduced to door-knocking, minus damsels trying to get foot into the shoe.
So we mentioned familiar ditties, borrowed hits rebooted with gusto, and retrofitted to fit into the tapestry of the kingdom:
- Madonna’s “Material Girl,” the stepmom’s marry-for-money declaration.
- Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” Prince Robert’s proclamation that he’d marry for love, not merely an arranged bride.
- Earth Wind and Fire’s “Shining Star,” the Fab Godmother’s vehicle to preen, as he/she turns the cinder girl into a saleable sizzler.
- Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” the romantic anthem shared by Ella and the Prince, before the clock strikes 12;
- Salt-N- Pepa with En Vogue’s “Whatta Man,” a crowd women rallying to earn the prince’s hand and wealth.
- Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud,” a show-ending livewire to punctuate the happily-ever- after conclusion.
- And yes, there are several new tunes in the soundtrack and the one to get on is Cabello’s composition, “Million to One.” It’s likely to be the film’s hit track; it is a made-for-radio, groomed-for-video gem.
Meanwhile, a Cinderella on the London stage
A footnote: there’s another “Cinderella” – a new musical – earning applause in the West End, London.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, with collaboration with Emerald Fennell and David Zippel, was shut down at the Gillian Lynne Theatre during the panemic, but returned to action in mid-August.
The cast includes Carrie Hope Fletcher as Cinderella, Ivano Turco as Prince Sebastian, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the Stepmother, Caleb Roberts as Prince Charming, and Rebecca Trehearn as the Queen.
In time, this one likely will set anchor on Broadway.