Evelyn Rudie's musical adaptation of "Cinderella" at the Santa Monica Playhouse tries too hard to be clever--with questionable results.
Rudie seems to enjoy presenting familiar fairy tales with a not-so-familiar twist and some humor specifically for adults. In a past production of "Little Red Riding Hood," this worked like a charm.
But here, a few risque moments edge over into vulgarity, as when stepsister Prunella does a brief bump-and-grind routine in her underwear. Elsewhere, certain plays on words lead to awkward silences.
Rudie's lyrics are in her staccato, Gilbert-and-Sullivan style. The wordplay can be enjoyable--the stepsisters see the error of their ways and sing "We're sorry we treated Cinderella so maliciously, we apologize for seeing life so avariciously"--but often the songs are too fast-paced to be understood. And the songs are the show. It's crammed with them.
Cinderella sings one reflective ballad--"Somebody sang my song, somebody heard my melody"--but indifferent music by Lynn Yamaha detracts from the moment.
Cydne Moore is a singularly unsympathetic Cinderella. One might applaud her strong sense of self and enjoy seeing a Cinderella who's not a sweet little martyr, but she comes off as a bit of a prig in her superiority. Her stepsisters (Rebecca Donner and Francene Amari) and stepmother (Cheryl Moffatt, who also plays the fairy godmother) aren't evil, just silly.
Costumes, by Moffatt and Ashley Hayes, are a plus. There are several changes into colorful velvet, satin and sequined gowns and Prince Asgood (James Cooper), in white spandex tights, blue coat and red sash, is quite princely.
Under Leslie Morris' direction, the cast performs the forced dialogue with energy and deliberate exaggeration and gets through even the fastest lyrics without noticeable mishap, if not clarity. John Waroff's slightly pixilated air as King Isgood is beguiling.
All the action takes place in Cinderella's cottage and Timothy Chadwick's set is pleasantly adorned with bric-a-brac, talking flowers and dishes. James Cooper's lighting design works well. The physical elements are not the problem here.
Toward the end of the less-than-hourlong show, a small voice was heard in the audience: "It's a long movie." It is, indeed.
The show plays Saturdays and Sundays, 1 and 3 p.m., at 1211 4th St., Santa Monica, through April 13; (213) 394-9779.