Monday, December 11, 2017

Cinderella—NW Children’s Theater—NW Portland

Cindy’s Fella

This classic tale is put to music, as well as lyrics, book and music direction by Ezra Weiss and directed and choreographed by Sarah Jane Hardy (NWCT’s Artistic Director).  And, as always, the set & props (John Ellingson) and costumes (Mary Eggers) are something special to behold!  It is playing at the NW Cultural Center, 1819 NW Everett St. (parking is a real challenge in this area, so plan you time accordingly), through January 1st.  For more information, go to their site at www.nwcts.org or call 503-222-2190.

Some of you parents out there might remember, from the days of yesteryear, the familiar phrase from the film musicals of the 30’s & 40’s that would go something like this:  “Mickey:  ‘Hey, Judy, let’s get all the kids together and put on a show!’  Judy:  ‘You bet, Mickey.’”  And this rousing show, with dances and singing and loads of energy, would appear, as if by magic, out of nowhere.  Well, combine that genre of yesteryear with an even older time period, bygone lore, the fairy tales, and you have this rousing salute to this Edenistic era of a Neverland that will never grow old.  It’s a Tapapoluza of the highest order!

This delightful homage to those forgotten times is beautifully brought to life by Weiss and Hardy.  It recalls the days of Rooney and Garland, and their resoundingly tapping into our psyches, or the days of Fred and Ginger and their more sophisticated turns into our hearts.  Or, “Bojangles” and Shirley Temple, with their stair dance, or Ann Miller, the fastest tapper in the world.  “And the beat goes on….” But that was then and this is now.  This is a lovely Christmas card, a reminder, of what once was, and now is revived for us again, as a relief, for a while, from these troubled times. 

I think all of us know the basic story, as a poor step-daughter, Cinderella (Camille Trinka), to her rather well-to-do family consisting of the vicious, Puruline (Ithica Tell), the mother of the brood, who is unable to utter the word “please,” and her two worthless daughters, Pustula (Kelly Sina) and Putrice (Ashley Coates)—notice how the names seem to fit their dispositions.  This lost lady is looking for a partner (no, not a mate), a dance partner, specifically tap-dancing.

And it just so happens, on the other side of this caste system, the royal Prince (not “Charming”) Bobby (John Ellingson), is also looking for the ideal connection in dance “to trip the light fantastic” with.  His parents, the blundering King (Erik James) and his pushy mama, the Queen (Patty Price-Yates), humor him in this quest and agree to a Holiday Ball, hoping that primal urges will induce him to find a more permanent union, a wife that will, of course, eventually produce an heir.  The Prince’s younger sister, Sid (Crea Sisco), with her alter-ego, her pet-puppet, a man-eating dinosaur, has threatened to gobble up anyone not to her liking.  But he has one friend who understands him (and is actually more articulate, too) the charming, Vincent (Kimo Camat)—also the narrator of the play.

And so it came to pass, a fairy godmother, Madame Bernadette (Signe Larsen), in the form of a dance instructor appears, not to pander to Cindy’s wishes, but to teach her to become a better tapper.  She does get the full treatment in clothing for the Ball, at last, taps her way into the Prince’s heart (but in a rather unusual way) and, of course, promptly loses one shoe, as she rushes off at the stroke of midnight.  Of course, we all know he eventually will discover her after going through hundreds of young women including, her step-sisters, as well as some other maidens, including Abigail (Annika Cutler) and Tammy (Maggie Stanton).  They do put on their magical show but one should not assume that the inevitable match will happen, as in this day of female empowerment, the lady takes a stand and…well, you’ll just have to see it for yourself, won’t you, to find out how it turns out….

This is, as indicated at the beginning, Hardy and Weiss’s show.  The plot is a clever re-telling of a classic fairy tale with some very pleasant tunes to add to the mix.  Trinka and Ellingson have grand voices and are super dancers.  And they get fine support from the rest of the cast, all pros.  But the real treat is the dancing, and the Ensemble of dancers is a huge reason for its success.  They are fabulous!  “May they live long and prosper.”  Hardy is in her element here and it shows in her choreography, as the dance numbers are so reminiscent of that era one thinks they may have gone back in time.  Hardy is a treasure and this is an example of her at her best!

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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