Full disclosure The Children’s Theatre Company’s Cinderella is fantastic. I know a review should be a long walk to a statement like that, but the show has so, So, SO much going on that “fantastic” needs be said -- so I don’t have to worry that I didn’t say it. The direction, the music, the set design, the acting, the lighting, the choreography was all so -- and I’m only using this word because I already used “fantastic”-- good. This Cinderella takes inspiration from the character as both are determined, dedicated, and willing to make something greater than what is expected from them. The only trait the play doesn’t seem to share with its heroine is bravery, as CTC brings out a version of this story every few years.
We know the story of Cinderella, in fact we probably know a few alternate versions as well, but to keep it short: Cinderella is a young woman living with her cruel stepmother and terrible stepsisters who force her to work for them as a live-in servant. The day a royal ball is held (its purpose to help the prince find a bride), Cinderella is forced to stay home by her wicked stepmother. However, with the help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella sneaks out and is able to attend the ball in disguise. After briefly meeting the prince Cinderella is forced to rush home and in her hurry she leaves a glass slipper behind. Infatuated with the girl, the prince finds her slipper and has every woman in his kingdom try it on before he finally finds Cinderella.
Framing all of the wonder of this show is a cast of singers and actors taking the role of a Victorian family’s Christmas party. The Cinderella we see is the holiday story told to a young girl. The ensemble of singers does a splendid job of creating the love one would expect at a Christmas party. And with their wondrous chorus of voices they help create a foundation that the rest of the show builds on.
The play functions in two parts: one part features Cinderella (Rajané Katurah) and all of her necessary plot points, the second part highlights her evil stepmother (Autumn Ness) and stepsisters (Ashawnti Sakina Ford, Kimberly Richardson) as comedic powerhouses. Both parts give and take respectively ensuring the overall balance is perfect. Cinderella’s honesty and sincerity are important, but watching her exude the perfect demeanor of a princess soon-to-be isn’t very exciting. To remedy this we have the clowning of her stepmother and stepsisters who help us laugh with their self-referential humor and pop culture references.
Ford and Richardson’s antics as bickering stepsisters always get a laugh. Their back and forth creates so much energy in an already amped-up show. The two comedians find control and assistance from Ness as the Stepmother. Ness is just as zany as Ford and Richardson, but her conniving character is required to give the push and pull of the plot. She does this with a deft hand. One moment she’s joking with the music director the next she’s reading Cinderella’s invitation to the ball; her performance makes both equally delightful.
The laughs of Cinderella are always great, but they require a lot from Katurah’s Cinderella. Being the straight man next to the comedians is never easy (or fun), but Katurah doesn’t allow herself to be swallowed by the talent of her peers. She rises to the heights every protagonist should with sincerity, charm, and wonderful singing. Thanks to her performance, we see Cinderella isn’t just some beautiful servant who’s down on her luck; she’s a kind and candid woman willing to do what it takes to be herself. It’s a darling performance, one that takes a lot of heart, but it’s clear it also requires a lot of energy as well.
All of the actors need buckets of energy to play on stage because the set is so much. With its bright colors and interactive elements, Eduardo Sicangco’s set tends to take focus. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a “holy-crap” thing. There were times in the show when the audience literally applauded at the work of Sicangco. I’ve never seen that before in my life. The sets were stunning pieces of functional design that allowed for so much from the actors and puppets. The grandeur itself was so great one could assume it was the work of the fairy godmother.
Cinderella is an outstanding ride you can’t take your eyes off of. It’ll make you laugh and feel in a way the story hasn’t before. You’ll want to see this show for a great night and many memories after that.