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An Enchanting 'Cinderella'

June 25, 1998|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Unless it is too long or uneven in the telling, "Cinderella" on stage never seems to cease fascinating young audience members--girls and boys.

At the Santa Monica Playhouse, where the tale has been one of the theater's many perennial musical children's offerings, this time around "Cinderella" captivates its young audience, highlighted by fast pacing, fancy costuming and a lovely, unweepy Cinderella.

Nevermind that Prince Charming, as played by James Cooper (James Calvert also plays the role), appears to be of an age that suggests years of success at eluding matrimony. Indeed, if Cooper's seniority to Jeanne Karsell's glowing young Cinderella (Ann Grennan at other performances) startled young audience members as it did some adults, they didn't show it at a recent performance when Cinderella and the Prince (in his servant guise) fell in love with many sighs and longing glances.

As written by Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo, this Cinderella finds her stepmother and stepsisters' self-involved foibles humorous and she neither pines nor whines. (In at least one previous staging, Cinderella was too cynical to be appealing.

She's no slouch with a slightly risque put-down either, particularly within the context of Rudie and DeCarlo's trademark Gilbert & Sullivan-style comic lyrics: In response to the rather zaftig Prunella's stated aspiration to share the Prince's throne, Cinderella responds: "With aspirations such as yours, you'll have to sit alone."

Some of the quick, multisyllabic lyrics are lost to the ear, but most are delivered with facility, and the pace is unflagging.

John Waroff as King Isgood does his part with an appealing twinkle; mildly wicked stepsisters Grisella (Heather Ross) and Prunella (Kirsten O'Connell) and stepmother Arabella (Cheryl Jennings) have fun with their roles, although their comic relief can be forced.

The stepsisters' braying laughter and clowning arrogance are a hit, however, and Jennings, a longtime Playhouse pro, makes a polished dual contribution as the ditsy Fairy Godmother.

That neither Cinderella nor the Prince recognizes the other when they are dressed in finery (the notable quality of Ashley Hayes' costume design is a big plus) doesn't say much for their brain power, but love--since the shoe does fit, of course--finds a way.

* "Cinderella," Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica, Saturdays-Sundays, 1 and 3 p.m. through Sept. 27. $8. Reservations required. Birthday party services offered. (310) 394-9779, Ext. 2.

The Art of the Bear: Original art from author-illustrator Don Freeman's treasured creation "Corduroy," the classic children's book, will be on exhibit at Storyopolis Art Gallery and Bookstore, beginning Saturday with a "Corduroy Craft & Story Hour" featuring "3rd Rock From the Sun" star Simba Khali (Nina).

* "Corduroy Craft & Story Hour," Storyopolis Art Gallery and Bookstore, 116 N. Robertson Blvd., Plaza A, Los Angeles, Saturday, 11:30 a.m. Free; optional craft fee, $6. Craft reservation: (310) 358-2512.

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