The Asolo’s retelling of the Cinderella story offers a bit of holiday sparkle.
By Kay Kipling
Everyone likes a little fun and excitement for the holidays, so it’s understandable that the Asolo Repertory Theatre (www.asolo.org) would choose a new family-oriented musical to fill the holiday slot in their schedule. The Plexiglass Slipper offers some, if not all, of the holiday sparkle we’re in the mood for right now.
Certainly the classic story of Cinderella is always ripe for a retelling, and this version, with book and lyrics by Jim Luigs and music by Scott Warrender (of Das Barbecu fame) has the potential to shine. When it doesn’t, it’s mostly due to some lacking connective tissue or back story (however brief) that would help us believe in the characters. Because even in a parody, you have to have a certain reality to follow.
In the setup here, Cinderella (enchantingly played by third-year FSU/Asolo Conservatory student Kris Danford) does not want to go to that palace ball; in fact, she’s looking to make her escape from her cruel stepfamily that evening when everyone else is out partying. And the prince (a rather lackluster Ned Noyes) doesn’t want to be married off to the most likely young lady, either.
But fairy godmothers and parents have a job to do, so Cinderella’s guardian (Patti Allison) and the Prince’s folks (Bryan Torfeh and Wanda Richert) do their best to bring this couple together as fate would decree. They’re hampered by that mean stepmother (a choice role for Suzanne Grodner, who’s a treat) and those step “sisters” (actually men in women’s clothing in this case), but you know who’ll win out in the end.
There are some cute and clever moments in this updated fairy tale, but there are also ones that just sort of hang there. Richert is always watchable as the prince’s former-showgirl mom, but even her big dance number, while well executed, sort of comes from nowhere, as does Allison’s heart-rending number in Act II, which is supposed to convince us of her emotional need to make Cinderella’s story come out right. And the stepsisters, while understandably used for comic relief, are so overdone here; the belching and farting jokes may make the little kids in the audience giggle, but they’re bound to wear on anyone over 10 after a while.
In the end, a lot of the charm of The Plexiglass Slipper comes from the enduring power of the Cinderella story, the lovely costumes and other production values, and the performance by Danford in the lead. That’s OK, but let’s hope that the team behind the play might go back and do a little reworking for future productions in order to make this slipper fit the way it should.
The Plexiglass Slipper runs on the Asolo mainstage through Jan. 4; call 351-8000 for ticket info.