Cinderella's fairy godmother lifts her magic wand to transform the wretched maiden's broom into six white horses.
But wait--that's not a wand. It's a banana she's drawn from a holster at her side. With her cowgirl hat and leather fringed vest, this fairy godmother looks like Annie Oakley.
"Now bring me a pumpkin," the frontier fairy drawls, opening her little black book. "And some salt, cinnamon and chocolate. Oh no, no. That's my recipe for magic cake."
This isn't the Cinderella children have been fed for years. This one has a no-nonsense fairy godmother who says things like "hogwash." But the Ventura County Repertory Theatre had promised a Cinderella "as you've never seen it before."
The spoof is the group's current offering for children at its new home, Theatre-By-The-Sea at Ventura Harbor Village.
It's an intimate theater, with 65 seats facing the stage on three sides. Don't look for elaborate sets. There are none, and few props. Yet nearly every seat was taken on a recent Saturday by parents, grandparents and young children.
The children were swept into the play by the all-adult cast.
When Cinderella needs a dress for the ball, the children close their eyes, make a wish and count to 20. Like magic, Cinderella appears dressed to the hilt. But, hold it, she's barefoot. So they count to three, and in a sleight of foot, Cinderella lifts her dress and shows off her satin pumps.
The children are invited to dance at the ball. When the stepsisters are vainly trying on the shoe, they try it on as well.
The stepsisters aren't just mean and ugly. One of them, Stacy, is a gum-popping space case with one missing high-top sneaker. She says things like, "I'm so like excited."
Another, named Heather, scratches herself and snorts like a pig when she laughs. And the third, Tracy, dressed in orange cowboy boots and a black boa, does little but stare vacantly with her mouth open.
The wicked stepmother roars at Cinderella with such malice that one child burst into tears. "Here, fix this!" she says, yanking off her ill-fitting wig.
The plot is more tangled than shoe meets foot. Cinderella falls for the footman, the prince in disguise. He tests her genuineness with some not so tricky questions, and it all ends happily.
Written by Ann Mackenzie of Santa Barbara, the show is sometimes over the heads of the children. That's deliberate.
"We had been looking for something that appeals to children and adults," said Helen Jordan, who plays a stepsister. "If it's just for kids, the parents are there going ho-hum."
The group was formed 10 years ago by Elizabeth Harris. It moved into the theater in February with its first adult production. In July it began staging "Cinderella."
The cast is all volunteer. Some are rookies, like K.C. Marie, a Ventura College student who plays the stepmother with wit and wickedness. Roger Berry, the prince, and Susan Wiltfang, another stepsister, also are students there.
Jordan has been in local drama for 10 years. She teaches eighth-graders U.S. history, English and drama. Joanne Goertz, the fairy godmother, is a secretary by day, as is another stepsister, Denise Lee. Karl Thomas, who plays the Duke, is a retired entertainer who performed in "The Drunkard" for 18 years in Los Angeles.
Paula Maxwell, a professional magician, does a Cinderella sweeter than a Twinkie. After the show, children crowded around her for hugs.
The theater offers another children's show for free at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Jimmy D sings songs with some help from the children in the audience. He also brings along Miss Pinky, a pink hippopotamus outfitted in a blue tutu, ballet slippers and a bikini top.
* WHERE AND WHEN: "Cinderella" is having an indefinite run Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Theatre-By-The-Sea, Ventura Harbor Village, 1559 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura. Tickets are $4. Advance tickets, 655-7688. Jimmy D sings children's songs at 10 a.m. Saturdays in the theater. There is no charge.