BWW Review: CINDERELLA AND FELLA at Alliance Theatre
Imagine a prince. Now imagine Cinderella. Now imagine they are 13 year olds. That's basically the fun new spin on the familiar Cinderella story that ALLIANCE THEATRE is serving up with their world premiere of Cinderella and Fella, a charming little musical for children with a book by Janece Shaffer and music by S. Renee Clark. Under the direction of Rosemary Newcott, the talented cast aptly showcases the message of the play which is one that bears repeating: it's important to be kind.
The musical tells the story of Maurice, the young prince of Kashoogie who's eager to begin his preparation for being king, despite the fact that his mom is the worst kind of helicopter parent who doesn't think he's ready to fulfill his destiny. The determined Maurice needs a royal cohort to accompany him on his year-long journey into manhood, a Kashoogie tradition, so he's throwing a party to find one. Enter Cinderella, a poor orphan who's spent years pulling her impoverished stepmother and step-siblings around in their tiny portable house. Cinderella desperately wants a crack at becoming the royal cohort, but between the demands of her unkind stepmother and her threadbare clothes, it seems like it will take a miracle to get her to the party. Still, with the help of her forest friends and the magic of the Summer Solstice, Cinderella might get to the party in time to find a wonderful new friend.
Cinderella and Fella is beautifully performed. In particular, Jeremiah Parker Hobbs (Prince Maurice) is a standout performer in this show. He maximizes the potential for us to believe that he is a young boy, and he does it without resorting to those old gimmicky tricks like moving into his upper register to sound like a child. He's charming and hilarious, and his understanding of how a young boy moves and reacts to the world around him is spot-on. Also worthy of special note are the puppeteers who collectively build the cast of forest creatures that helps Cinderella to reach her goals. Most of the puppeteers also play human roles in the production, and all do fine jobs in those roles as does India S. Tyree in the role of Cinderella.
The play, while light and airy, does a good job of delivering a little morsel of truth about the human condition: it is better to live in a world where people are kind to one another. Throughout the play, we see characters who are kind (even when the kindness isn't particularly earned) and who can empathize with others. The idea that being kind to others offers inherent rewards is consistently upheld, and since we live in a world where people choke other people at Disney World for blocking the view of the fireworks, any opportunity to reinforce the value of kindness should probably be embraced.
Determining whether or not a play for children is servicing its target group is very easy. Just look around at how many children need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the play. During the performance that I attended, the number of children who needed to go to the bathroom was zero. They were all captivated - and much too busy for something as mundane as a potty break.