note: entire contents copyright 1999 By Alan W. Petrucelli
Once upon a time there lived a chimney sweep and general lackey by the name of Cinderella. She lived with her mean stepmother, her two meaner stepsisters and a cellar full of even meaner rats. She spent her days and nights cooking and cleaning and washing and drying and ironing and wishing and hoping for the better life.
Her big wish: To get to Prince's ball, a lavish extravaganza filled with fancy folk doing fancy dances in fancy clothes and drinking fancy champagne.
A wish is a dream the heart makes.
Everyone knows the tale of "Cinderella" Everyone knows how the mice are turned into horses to pull the pumpkin that has turned into a magnificent carriage. And everyone know how Cinderella must get home, back to the grime and garret, by midnight. And everyone knows she loses a glass slipper, causing havoc in the kingdom since the Prince doesn't have a leg to stand on until he finds the woman with whom he's fallen in love. And everyone knows that fairy tales come true, and that this one has a happy ending.
Except in Orleans, where the Academy Playhouse's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicalization of Charles Perrault's 17th-century fairy tale is now being staged.
This production is sloppy --- uncertain acting, weak voices, misguided direction. The set is cheap: not in that pop-up, fold-down cartoonish way that often befits a fairy tale, but in that let's-cut-corners-and-pray-no-one-notices kind of way.
Not notice the mirrors are made of wrinkled tin foil?
Not notice that the flowers that "magically" appear in front of Cinderella's eyes are awkwardly placed there by a plainly visible hand? Not notice that when the Fairy Godmother "magically" goes from outside the window of the castle to inside --- a move that forces Cinderella to ask how she "did that" --- she so by simply walking through the rather obvious cut-away door?
Not notice that the gowns the stepmother shops for --- the ones she purposely pulls out of the boxes and says her kids are going wear --- are never seen again, not in the ball scene?
Not notice the "glass" slipper is a silver pump?
Not notice how ugly (there is simply no other word) the props are: The mice are cute as they (awkwardly) transform themselves into two of the ugly horses around; the "coach" is a dolly with white sheeting that is simply embarrassingly cheesy.
Not notice that this show needs work and was not ready for opening?
Not all is bad. Julie Bray is a delight as Cinderella, and her voice, so rich and robust, simply underscores how poor everyone else's is. The stage is ablaze when the spotlight is on her. Sarah Wood and Lindsey Malatesta are delightful as the dueling stepsisters --- theirs are the kinds of performances that are coated in welcome bitchiness and eye-rolling, shoulder-rolling attitude ... sort of the way a pair of drag queen might play the roles.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's score boasts a few delights, but the constant reprises emphasis just how pithy it is. Luckily, Bray gets to sing the two "biggies": "In My Own Little Corner" and "Impossible; It's Possible."
This is one Cinderella that needs more work. I hate doing it to the poor overworked girl, but it's the wish my heart makes.
Cinderella will be presented at the Academy Playhouse in Orleans Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through March 5. Tickets: $14, $12. For more information, call 255-1963.