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IF THE SHOE FITS : Broadway on Tour Pumps Up the Comedy in a Quick-Footed Version of 'Cinderella'

August 13, 1992|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

Recently, in the comic strip "Curious Avenue," a pint-sized artiste mounted a production of "Cinderella" with his socially conscious playmates. As a concession to their '90s sensibilities, he promised that the prince (played by himself, of course) would be such an extraordinarily sensitive guy that he wouldn't even plant a real kiss on his princess-to-be.

"It's just a stage kiss," he swore to his reluctant lady love.

"Fine," she snapped back. "You can kiss the stage."

Broadway on Tour's "Cinderella" is not quite so, ah, progressive, but it does form a happy union between the "happily-ever-after" stuff and a more down-to-earth attitude that should appeal to everyone from preschoolers to junior high school students. Directed by Broadway on Tour founder Dan Halkyard, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical continues through Saturday at Yorba Linda's Forum Theatre.

In their original script, Messrs Rodgers and Hammerstein added several campy updates to Charles Perrault's tale of a mistreated girl who magically finds true love and a steady job as princess of the realm. The King, for example, is a blundering, tightfisted fellow. Stepsisters Joy and Portia are a pair of prime goofballs, and the fairy godmother is crazy--like a fox.

Halkyard takes this further still, adding such characters as a trio of posturing palace officials and a comic crew of wisecracking household mice who, although they're shamelessly borrowed from Disney's animated version, seem to be considerably quicker on the uptake.

Comedy is tough for actors of any age, but this cast of 7- to 17-year-olds handles the assignment with aplomb. At Saturday night's performance, members of the Princess cast (the company is divided into two groups for the run) threw themselves into the task with obvious enjoyment.

Although there were occasional weak spots and technical snafus (including a side curtain that snagged and half covered Cinderella's glittering coach as it emerged from the wings, and some difficulty with body microphones), by and large the show kept moving at an admirable pace. Ensemble members, who in children's shows are sometimes treated as window dressing and seem to wander about the stage untended, were focused on the business at hand and provided strong support to the central characters, who showed their appreciation with some surprisingly polished performances.

Cinderella is one of the characters in this show who plays it straight, and Cheryl Graves took her wistful sighs and moonstruck gazes seriously. Raul Estrada's prince is a swarthy, heart-on-his-sleeve kind of guy, and his strong, mellow singing voice is a fine addition to the show's romantic duets.

As the stepsisters, Lauren Kling and Deanne Durazzo show real talent for physical comedy, rolling their eyes and falling all over each other like a couple of vaudeville veterans. Their "Stepsister's Lament," which they perform sprawled on top of accompanist Larry Cline's grand piano, is clearly the comic highlight of the two-hour show.

Glory Gray, swathed in pink lace and shimmering ribbons, is a delightful fairy godmother whose giddiness is tempered by a subtle streak of practicality. Those who saw Kling, Durazzo and Gray's work in the troupe's recent "Miracle Worker" will admire the flexibility of these young actresses.

Like the godmother, Neil Caplin's sets and props--especially Cinderella's rolling coach covered with twinkling lights--and Laurie Holden's costumes are a pleasing blend of fantasy and function. Choreographer Kimber Jacobs worked well with the varying abilities of her cast, but her emphasis on Cinderella's ballet moves were a little misplaced, seeming to be intended more to show off Grave's dancing ability and to charm little girls in the audience than to meld with the rest of the show.

What: Broadway on Tour presents Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella."

When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 14 and 15, at 7:30 p.m.

Where: The Forum Theatre, 4175 Fairmont Blvd., Yorba Linda.

Whereabouts: From the Orange (57) Freeway, exit at Imperial Highway and drive north. Turn right on Yorba Linda Boulevard and left on Fairmont.

Wherewithal: $6 to $8.

Where to call: (714) 692-8102.

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