American Girl Place Café and Cinderella

Rumplemeyers, the upscale midtown ice-cream parlor of old, morphed into the cultish American Girl Place Café – near enough to Broadway for lunch pre-matinee. You may want to book post-play in order to take your time. Our drama critic’s 7 year-old daughter could find not a single thing wrong with the experience. She even ran into someone she knew and bonded with the 12-year-old in the next banquet.

The store sells dolls constructed in the owner’s image. Basically, hair color and skin color are all that change. If a child doesn’t own one, she or he may choose from an array of loaner dolls to sit beside them during the meal. Our youngest critic brought her look-alike doll, which was given her own seat at the table and brought a tiny teacup and saucer. (At home, her mother says, she never plays with the doll.) She manned the “conversation box,” asking thoughtful questions. “Do you ever feel homesick? What do you do about that?” Several question slips were tossed aside before she read the next: “If you had your choice, would you be an only child or one of ten children? You can only pick one or the other.” The decor is flowery, pink, black and white.

Blue-cheese burgers, mac and cheese, tic-tac-toe pizza are substantial, served with a mountain of sweet potato fries – you’d expect doll-size portions. We had so much food there was enough to take home to Daddy. A generous appetizer platter includes pretzel bread, mustard and ranch dips, fruit and carrots trimmed with a little mohawk of green. Dessert is a chocolate mousse flowerpot, heart-shaped cake, and fruit kabob.

When you book the American Girl restaurant online, you are asked to pay on the spot your party’s prix fixe at lunchtime of $24 per person (whether adult or child). As you are about to pay online, a question flashes:“Are you 18 years of age or older?” Apparently some girls succeeded in the trick of using their parents' credit card to book reservations from their iphones. One clever girl ordered a whole range of dolls, dolls’ dogs, wardrobes, luggage, and a miniature grand piano—a thousand dollars worth of merchandise.

Cinderella on Broadway has magic, love, humor and heart. This updated production of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic seems softer and a far cry from the original 1957 Julie Andrews version. The stepsisters are contemplative and not as mean. They are more focused on their own ambitions rather than thwarting Cinderella’s. The Prince exhibits leadership skills and truly cares about his kingdom. The stepmother isn’t completely a pill. There is an updated text with new twists, characters (including a rebel), and songs outside of the original score.

It all works. The star is Cinderella’s inside-out gown that transforms from peasant’s frock to ball gown in seconds. Costumes by William Ivey Long are glittery, bright and beautiful when danced. The many layered ball gowns flutter and swirl. Our 7-year old critic described them as "poofy, like big cupcakes," and she wished "I hope I can go to a real ball someday and wear a dress like that!" She loved the choreography and the gorgeous voice of Cinderella—Laura Osnes. A special shoutout to Harriet Harris, who is hilarious as the stepmother.

Who doesn’t want to believe that dreams come true? Santino Fontana, the Prince, sums it up: “You can get what you secretly wish for. We should all keep hoping for the impossible.”