Fort Worth — The version of Cinderella making its world premiere at Casa Mañana Children's Theatre may be subtitled "The Tale of the Glass Slipper," but it really should be "The Stepsisters Steal the Show," because, sorry Cindy, this show belongs to them.
In the latest children's musical penned by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman, known for writing previous Casa Mañana stagings of How I Became a Pirate, Snow White and the Prince, and Rapunzel, Rapunzel, A Very Hairy Fairy Tale, the writing duo included in their script the option to have Cinderella's evil stepsisters played by two men, as is sometimes done with the ballet for comic effect. The show's director, Noah Putterman, Casa Mañana's director of Children's Theatre and Education, wisely chose that option. The result is a hilarious evening revisiting a familiar story of the poor girl who works and slaves for her evil stepmother and her daughters, then with the help of her fairy godmother, finds true love at the prince's ball.
David Coffee and Greg Dulcie, two of the Metroplex's most talented character actors known for playing more masculine roles, step into the not-so-dainty shoes of Cinderella's stepsisters. Coffee plays Hypochondria, perpetually fighting a cold and bunions, while Dulcie plays Smorgasbordia, who hasn't met a buffet she doesn't like. Both take full, entertaining advantage of their enormous hoop skirts from sashaying around the set to butting each other like sumo wrestlers. In addition, Dulcie gets great laughs from knowing just the right moment to drop his voice into its lowest register. Kudos also to the writers for mining comedy gold from Smorgasbordia's love for food without resorting to fat jokes.
Although it's hard to imagine these two louts coming from the regal and elegant Cara Statham Serber as the Stepmother, she aptly completes this terrible trio as they join forces to torment and tease poor Cinderella. All three appear to be having a blast in their roles, taking the audience along for the ride.
Alyssa Robbins plays Cinderella with youth, sweetness and light, and a lilting voice. Her best friend is Putterman T. Rat played with spirit and a young Martin Short vibe by Brandon Shreve. Zak Reynolds, who has become the Metroplex's go-to actor to play the Prince does so with boyish good looks, charm, wit and a fondness for those little sausages. It should also be noted that Reynolds continues his family's theater legacy on the Casa Mañana stage. He is the grandson of Katy and Mel Dacus, whose names were once synonymous with Fort Worth theater.
The other show stopper in this take on the timeless tale is Morgan Mabry Mason, who appears in a puff of smoke from under beggar's rags in a dazzling burst of blue and silver sparkles as Cinderella's brassy, sassy Fairy Godmother. Mason brings her powerful vocals to the show's best song, urging Cinderella to "put on the shoes." (There isn't a listing of song titles in the production's playbill or on the Vogt/Friedman website.
Scenic artist Kaitlyn Donovan provides an opulent, adaptable backdrop for the action with her lushly textured set that opens and adds panels to take the audience from Cinderella's humble kitchen to the grand staircase of the palace for the Prince's ball. The set for the ball adds wonderful depth to the stage.
Samuel Rushen's lighting design adds to the set's opulence and helps provide the magic, especially during the masterful stage magic of Cinderella's transformation from humble kitchen waif to princess material. Her transformation and the Fairy Godmother's are the two most magical moments. Turning Putterman T. Rat into a footman and a pumpkin into a coach both happen off stage, the latter with a burst of orange confetti.
Costume design can make or break a fairy tale production, and Tammy Spencer doesn't disappoint. From the elegant gowns for the Stepmother to the sparkle of both the Fairy Godmother and Cinderella and the iconic glass slippers, everything is fairy tale perfection. Spencer and Catherine Petty-Rogers' wig and makeup design turn Coffee and Dulcie into hilarious stepsister caricatures.
The songs for the show lean towards ballads, but Putterman (the director) keeps the pace brisk to keep his young audience engaged. The show is appropriate for all ages, although little ones younger than 3 may find it harder to sit still. If opening night is any indication, expect to see lots of little girls in their best Cinderella finery.
With Disney's latest version of Cinderella currently on the big screen, it may feel like Cinderella overload to the grownups. But here's the good news about taking the kids to the Casa Mañana production: Thanks to a couple of oafish stepsisters, there's plenty to keep the adults entertained as much as the kids. Sorry, Cinderella. You get the prince, but your stepsisters steal the show.