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THEATER REVIEW : 2 Area Productions Provide Differing Views of Cinderella : A pair of musical adaptations of the children's story from major Broadway composers are given commendable stagings.

August 19, 1993|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two musical adaptations of "Cinderella" playing in southern Ventura County offer conflicting perspectives on the classic children's story. And, theater fans take note, both are seldom-performed footnotes in the canons of major Broadway composers.

Camarillo Community Theater's current production is Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella." One of the team's last collaborations, it was written to star Julie Andrews in the title role, and first performed on television, with Andrews, in 1957. A TV revival featuring Lesley Ann Warren is the more familiar version, due to frequent repeat airings.

Over at the Moorpark Melodrama & Vaudeville Company, they're performing "The Truth About Cinderella," a burlesque of the story with a score by Charles Strouse, whose better-known works include "Bye, Bye Birdie," "Applause" and "Annie."

Rodgers & Hammerstein's show is the more traditional, and a minor gem, nicely performed by one of Ventura County's most consistently able theater companies.

Tori Lewis stars as the title character, keeping house for her stepmother and two stepsisters while she dreams of attending the Royal Ball. After a visit by her fairy godmother, the mission is accomplished. Cindy meets the handsome Prince, flees homeward before the godmother's spell is broken and is discovered when her foot fits the glass slipper.

In Hammerstein's version, the stepsisters aren't just ugly and mean, they're clumsy and stupid, with terrible taste in clothing and makeup. Not surprisingly, they get most of the good lines, the funniest costumes and supply most of the show's pep. Tiffany Walmsly plays Prunella, with Cynthia Slon as the even dumber Esmerelda; both are fine physical comedians.

Lewis and Charles Padilla, as the prince, are an attractive youngish couple with better-than-average singing voices; she's a veteran of the local Young Artists Ensemble who deserves more attention in the future, and he's perhaps best known as musical director of the Camarillo Community Theater's recent productions of "1776" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Lora Marsh plays the fairy godmother, Dorothy Berzman is the stepmother, and Keith Hurt is seen as a herald.

The songs aren't Rodgers & Hammerstein's most memorable, but they're tuneful enough and a few--"Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful" and the waltz "Ten Minutes Ago"--are well up to the pair's standard.

Director and music supervisor Kevin Parcher keeps things on keel (although there's a bit too much of everybody standing around stiffly), and the show's combination of recorded instrumental backgrounds and live accompaniment by Parcher on piano and understated percussion by Larry English work better than either source would have by itself.

Kristin Dahl is credited with the nice choreography; Karen Moffatt, Margaret Miche and Brooke Sullivan with the gorgeous costumes, and Willy Eck, the designer of so many memorable Ventura College productions, came up with a sparse, functional and innovative stage set.

*

"The Truth About Cinderella" is something else entirely: a revisionist version of the story by David and June Walker Rogers, based on "The Cinderella Complex" by British poet and essayist Sir Osbert Sitwell.

This Cinderella is never happier than when she's scrubbing, mopping or sweeping, and it's all that her stepsisters can do to drag her off to the Royal Ball, which the king has staged in a desperate attempt to marry off his son, an inveterate mama's boy. Oh, and there are two fairy godmothers, one representing Cindy's better nature and one who represents a more potentially irritating side.

Cinderella is much less of a standard-issue wimpy ingenue than Rodgers & Hammerstein's interpretation, and Aspasia Alexander--a newcomer to the Melodrama--gives her some real comic bite.

Lucien Casselman and Katrina Eisel play the two stepsisters, Susan Burns is the not-so-wicked stepmother and melodrama stalwart Damian Gravino--who can communicate more with a raised eyebrow than many actors can with their whole bodies--is Cinderella's father.

Chris Carnicelli plays the king, with Kate McIntire as the dominating queen and Gary Ogden as the handsome, if not very bright, prince. Brenda Skeate and Paula Pope are the "good" and "bad" godmothers, respectively; Susan Michael and Robbyn Barber play a couple of bumbling servants, and David Webster appears as the suitor of one of Cinderella's stepsisters.

It's notable that this melodrama production includes a wider age range than usual among its players, and some good singing voices--although the house's new P.A. system and the tendency of many of the women to use strident character voices combine to obscure lyrics and dialogue.

Steve Robertson directs, Margarita Riley choreographed and musical director Tim King handles the prerecorded accompaniment. Despite (and including) the participation of Strouse, the songs aren't all that much--just as well, perhaps, considering the sound problems.

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