Home #Hwoodtimes CINDERELLA:  New Pop Musical Pushes Ella’s Fashion Line   

CINDERELLA:  New Pop Musical Pushes Ella’s Fashion Line   

By Jim Gilles

Cinderella (Camila Cabella) at her sewing machine

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/5/21 –  Now playing in select theaters including CineLounge in Hollywood (where I watched the movie) and on Amazon Prime Video, Cinderella, written and directed by Kay Cannon, is a musical retelling of the classic tale that adds in twists and turns to the titular character’s journey toward a happy ending. Amazon’s Cinderella is yet another major movie adaptation of the classic tale, which was popularized in the English-speaking world by Charles Perrault. The previous one was Disney’s live-action Cinderella in 2015. This iteration, however, involves a lot of music to help tell its tale, which reveals Cinderella’s aspirations to become a fashion designer and Prince Robert’s desire to, well, not become king. Starring Camila Cabello as Cinderella, the 2021 film doesn’t hold back when it comes to its music. The idea to create a new adaptation stemmed from television host James Corden, who plays one of Cinderella’s mice and serves as a producer alongside Leo Pearlman, Jonathan Kadin and Shannon McIntosh. Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, Nicholas Galitzine, Missy Elliott and Pierce Brosnan also have roles. The role of Cinderella marks Cabello’s first venture into film acting. Known as a member of the former girl group Fifth Harmony, the Cuban-born singer has released several albums and won several major music awards.

Fab G (Billy Porter) transforms Cinderella’s gown

With an ensemble cast that consists of several talented singers, including Wicked and Frozen star Idina Menzel, Cinderella includes a mixture of popular songs from throughout the decades – from Madonna’s “Material Girl” to “Am I Wrong” by Nico & Vinz – and original songs written for the film, including the centerpiece single, “Million to One,” co-written and performed by Cabello. Here is every song that is performed in Cinderella. “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson / ”You Gotta Be” by Des’ree – Both songs are played at the start of the film as a mash-up. “Rhythm Nation” is sung by the entire cast while “You Gotta Be” is performed by Cabello as an introduction to her iteration of Cinderella. “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire marks the entrance of Billy Porter’s Fab G, who sings to Cinderella before, during, and after turning one of her dress designs into reality through magic and sending her off to the ball. Reworked versions of Beyonce’s hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” are also featured. “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez with leading vocals by Cabello is the final song and is performed after all the happy endings at the conclusion of the film, with the entirety of the kingdom joining in to dance and sing. 

Idina Menzel (as Stepmother) with Maddie Baillio and Charlotte Spencer

This 2021 update of the Cinderella tale is an imaginative retelling of the orphan-turned-princess fairy tale. But this time Ella (Cinderella) is chasing her dreams and not a husband. She hopes to start her own clothing line, “Dresses by Ella.” “I have to make a life for myself,” her character says. When her evil stepmother (played by Tony winner Idina Menzel) threatens to throw her out on the street, Cinderella opens up her own clothing store and dreams of being a huge fashion designer – much to the chagrin of her family and her community. “There’s a laugh,” jokes one of the townsfolk. “This girl fancies herself a businessman.”

Camila Cabello as Cinderella

Stylish Broadway star Billy Porter replaced the familiar fairy godmother as “Fab G,” a genderless fairy godparent. In one scene, right before she heads off for the ball, Fab G waves a magic wand and clothes Cinderella not with a gown, but a respectable pantsuit fit for a businesswoman. But this Cinderella has her eye on the prize — and it isn’t Prince Charming. “I have dreams that I have to chase,” she says. So when the dreamy prince finally tells her that he’s picked her to join him in the castle, she replies: “What about my work? I don’t want a life stuck waving from a royal box any more than a life confined to a basement.”

Cinderella (Camila Cabella) dreaming of her future

Aside from the inspired casting of Billy Porter, Cinderella is fairly predictable in its modernization choices. Insist that women should marry for love, work outside the home, and be allowed to rule a country. Decades ago, two Cinderella adaptations already hit these same marks. Walt Disney Television’s 1997 version, starring Brandy Norwood, Whoopi Goldberg and Whitney Houston, featured an inclusive cast who put their own spins on the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical.  And 1998’s “Ever After” presented Drew Danielle de Barbarac, a stand-in for Cinderella, as thoughtful, passionate, and unafraid to speak her mind.

Prince Robert & Cinderella with her glass slipper

Cinderella is still conventionally beautiful and desired by many men. The only real difference here is that the special gown she made for herself in the source story – a manifestation of her strength and willpower – is now reconfigured as a way for Cinderella to make money. She looks happier accepting 15 silver coins from Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) for a dress sale than she is returning his kiss. Mockingly called “Cinderella” by her stepmother Vivian (Idina Menzel) and stepsisters Anastasia (Maddie Baillio) and Drizella (Charlotte Spencer), Ella wants to be a dressmaker and own her own shop. But Vivian (who, of course, had her own stifled dream once) refuses to let Cinderella pursue that goal. Instead, she wants her daughters to marry rich. In an “old-fashioned kingdom bound by tradition,” as Billy Porter’s Fabulous Godmother (or “Fab G”) tells us in voiceover narration, Ella (Cabello) clings to a dream.

Fab G (Billy Porter) dresses Cinderella in a pants suit

Cinderella bucks against that idea, and her vivaciousness catches the eye of Prince Robert, who is also fighting against his parents’ expectations. (You can tell because he wears a hoop earring.) His father, King Rowan (Pierce Brosnan) wants his son Robert to marry another noble, while his younger sister, Princess Gwen (Tallulah Greive), wants the crown for herself. The only reason she agrees to attend a ball held to find him a wife is because he convinces her it’s a networking opportunity for her dress-making business plans. As Billy Porter poses the question, does Cinderella really want to be a “future queen” or a career businesswoman. Go and see for yourself. The film is rated PG and suitable for most children over a certain age.

A special thanks to CineLounge Sunset in Hollywood and to publicist Philip Sokoloff for letting me see the film in this super-comfortable small theatre with a great projection system and Dolby surround-sound – an ideal place to watch a musical. They have great coffee and inexpensive parking beneath the building.