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"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." This old saw still cuts true when considering youth theatre. The importance of introducing children to the wonder of live performance is not only critical to the survival of the art form; more importantly, it is essential to humanity. The communal experiences of love, laughter, fear and compassion as presented on stage, unite us emotionally and ethically. In a world where virtual reality too often supplants authentic interaction, it is critical that children engage as an audience. This is why it is crucially important that the first theatrical experiences that children have are filled with magic, energy and wonder.

The problem with OFC Creations' production of Bibbidi Bobbidi Cinderella begins with the script itself. There is no love for the story of Cinderella. At the beginning of the show, the narrator (Fairy Godmother) announces that everyone already knows the story. This declaration seems to be an excuse to cut the story to the most skeletal version imaginable and add characters that actually detract from and slow down the action. The reason that Cinderella has survived as a favorite for so long is the universal appeal of the themes and the ease with which a writer can illuminate the story. The Fairy Godmother promises to tell the Grimm Brothers' version in which a magic tree, not a fairy godmother, helps Cinderella get to the ball. But in the cut down script this difference is barely developed. In fact, none of the characters are developed. The biggest question is why is the Fairy Godmother the narrator. Why is there a narrator at all? The time spent on "narration" and interruptions of Dave and Davey (two 4th grade boys) could be used to create relationships and develop themes. This script has no theme, no point of view. Is it about the Fairy Godmother, Dave and Davey or Cinderella? The plot is nothing but a series of distractions making it hard to follow the actual story of Cinderella. The end result is tomfoolery without purpose. There is nothing wrong with shenanigans, but when it is gratuitous it leaves the audience empty. The collective reaction is akin to laughing at a dropped cafeteria tray.

The direction is so stagnant and pedestrian that we feel sorry for the actors. More time is spent changing costumes than developing plot, character or theme. There is no quirkiness, warmth, care or humanity presented on stage. It is worrisome to think that this organization also teaches theatre classes. All in all, this production is the most disjointed and vapid children's show we have ever experienced. As Meisner said, "Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances." One can be as broad and crazy as one wants on stage, but underneath the chaos there needs to be a seed of truth. Both imagination and truth are lacking here. This production demeans children by not respecting their intelligence. The writer and director seem to think that plays need to be dumbed down for children, stripped of theatrical purpose. This attitude is offensive. We need to do better for our children.

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From This Author Dan and Julie Izzo