New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, where "Newsies" and "Honeymoon in Vegas" received regional runs before coming to Broadway, is turning into a launch site for new musicals aiming for Broadway -- as opposed to just a revival house for the classics.
Finishing its season is the world premiere of "Ever After," a musical adaptation of the charming 1998 Drew Barrymore film in which the Cinderella saga is reset to Renaissance France and Cinderella (here called Danielle) is a brave and bold heroine. The musical has been in development for a decade. I even attended a reading of it back in 2007.
Following Disney's "Into the Woods" film and remake of "Cinderella," not to mention the updated "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" on Broadway, is there really an appetite for "Ever After" right now? On second thought, maybe there's always an appetite for Cinderella.
In any case, "Ever After" sadly proves to be pretty underwhelming. After an initial viewing, it is hard to say whether the fault lies primarily in Kathleen Marshall's plain-looking, workmanlike production or the thin, overstretched material.
The songs (from the talented team of Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich) are well-crafted and character-driven, but they rarely advance the plot. A few dance sequences are randomly inserted in order to inject some liveliness.
The cast is acceptable if not exceptional. Margo Seibert displays plenty of personality as Danielle. Christine Ebersole, as the stepmother, lands plenty of laughs but borders on being too hammy. James Snyder gives a broad, blank reading of the prince. Mara Davi intermittently shines as the wicked stepsister. Charles Shaughnessy, Julie Halston, Tony Sheldon and Andrew Keenan-Bolger are underused in supporting roles.
Even if "Ever After" doesn't come to Broadway, it is likely to be embraced by schools and community theaters looking for another familiar, family-friendly title.
If you go: "Ever After" plays through June 21 at Paper Mill Playhouse. 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, New Jersey, papermill.org.