BWW Reviews: African American Shakespeare Company Creates Magic for Children with CINDERELLA
Although the African American Shakespeare Company does not promote its production of "Cinderella" as children's theatre, the term describes the show entirely. The script contains a few hilarious moments that will fill any person with a lot of joy, but it seems written purely for children. The acting, too, comes across as melodramatic and perfect for children.
Given the time of year, AASC's "Cinderella" makes for a great family outing or a magical Christmas present for the kids. Dress your daughter up as a princess, and she'll be heartily accepted into the magical realm where Cinderella the scullery maid finds her prince and triumphs over her ugly stepsisters and horrible stepmother. The Duke (played by the hilarious E. "Alx" Alexander) will even try Cinderella's lost slipper on a few lucky maidens.
There have been plenty of successful adaptations of "Cinderella" made for both children and adults - the Disney cartoon, "Ever After" the movie, the Rogers and Hammerstein musical - and based on the equal billing of AASC's production with its other productions of the more serious works, "Julius Caesar" and "Xtigone," you might expect high-quality entertainment for the individual adult, in addition to the family. That's not what audiences get, but they do receive the gift of a high-quality work for children. Obviously, AASC does something right with the production, as they take on the production for the ninth year in a row this winter.
A few kinks exist in the solid chain, however. The sets are sometimes awkward in the way they're moved about the stage, particularly the wooden "curtain." They use the small and charming space of the Buriel Clay Theatre well, but are inconsistent in look, setting and time period. One might wonder what the production could be like were it to take on a more African heritage setting and if that would turn it into a play with a wider audience appeal. The music used for transitions and background atmosphere varies from awkward to cheesy to fitting, but it works for the show as a children's play.
For the most part, the acting of the show outshines the sets, as do some of the funnier lines in the script. Antonette Bracks and David Moore are charming as Cinderella and her young prince. Bracks makes it clear that each person should stay true to herself. The moral of the play teaches children to believe in themselves and their dreams. But the majority of the show owes its life and energy to the two ugly stepsisters, played by male actors Martin Grizzell and James Martin. They make no effort to disguise their masculinity, and their attempts at feminine voices only add to the hilarity of their characters. With their diva attitudes, anyone can have a good time.
And that's exactly what "Cinderella" is: a good time for families. The show and its cast members, including an alternating cast of children in small parts, encourages children to get involved with the arts. It's not the best entertainment for individual adults, but it deserves a full house of children.
African American Shakespeare Company
Through Dec 18