Paper Mill Playhouse ends its 2014-2015 season with the must-see must-be-Broadway-bound musical “Ever After” with book and lyrics by Marcy Heiser and music by Zina Goldrich. The score is stirring and, for every woman, and every man, who always believed that kindness would triumph, this is the show for you.
Danielle (Isabella Jolene Burke in this performance) is the only child and the apple of everyone’s eye in her father Auguste’s (Fred Inkley) household of servants, who are also family. Her bestie is Gustave (Andrew Keenan-Bolger), who keeps an eye on her even while he encourages and participates in some of the mischief that makes her such a challenge to her village. Louise (Liz McCartney, last seen as a dazzling Ursula in Paper Mill’s “Little Mermaid”) does her best to be the mother that Danielle needs, having lost her own when she was even younger than Danielle’s present eight years. Her husband Maurice (Nick Corley) has an avuncular spirit and he provides advice and gravitas when her father is on trips and Danielle clearly has an excellent basis for understanding true love of family, a family bound some by blood and all by love.
There may be trouble in paradise at the moment when the family seems to expand. Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (Christine Ebersole) and her daughters, the shallow Kardashian-esque Margeurite (Mara Davi) and the zaftig, beautiful, and meek Jacqueline (Annie Funke), arrive, and Danielle learns some very new lessons in love.
Ebersole’s Rodmilla is cool, cruel and smooth as silk. She knows she’s doing wrong, but it seems that she’s not sui generis cold but, rather, she’s learned that cruelty as a way of keeping her family together, fed, and afloat in a very difficult time. She marries Auguste, in part, out of duty to provide, but he’s such a good man that, when he suddenly dies—unlike in Disney, it’s the Dad—we see the full weight of her very recent responsibility nearly crush her. It sets the tone, helping us see her cruelty as tinged with some sort of humanity, as she almost doesn’t know how to get out of the corner into which she’s painted herself.
James Snyder, recently of “If/Then,” makes a most winsome if initially clueless prince. He builds an arc of believable change that his parents Queen Marie (Julie Halston) and King Francis (Charles Shaughnessy) have been encouraging for years. We see him grow up and “King up” to become the man who will rule France–but it takes Danielle to show him the way.
There’s a lovely chemistry between Captain Laurent (Charl Brown) and Jacqueline de Ghent (Annie Funke) where they both just seem to sparkle. When love is in the air, it’s everywhere!
The ensemble is powerful too, Fred Inkley’s role as Auguste is short (with a reprise here and there) and it’s fun to spot him in the ensemble and later as the Spanish King. Alena Watters is not only a lady-in-waiting, she’s also the Queen of Spain with a flurry of Spanish words which some may not have been learned in class!
The music is brilliant and there are several standouts starting with “Ever After,” in the opening, and “Help Me,” which comes back, in reprises, among characters, almost as a melody moves through the voices in an orchestra. Rodmilla’s “After All” gives a deeper glimpse of a heretofore unsympathetic character and “Out of the Darkness” is a number that thrills me just thinking about it.
There are so many reasons for you to see this show–a father and daughter love-story, where love lasts a lifetime, the changes one person can make when even a prince has feet of clay, that Karma has a way of catching up to you, but most of all see it for the chemistry–it’s not just Leonardo who’s creating
This show feels Broadway bound, so see it at its most exciting! Visit the Box Office at 973.376.4343 or www.PaperMill.org