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REVIEW: Piwacket Children's Theatre Opens Season with CINDERBOTTOM

Piwacket Children's Theatre begins their 2009-2010 season with a retelling of the familiar Cinderella story, here called CinderBottom. Like all of their productions, there's a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor that makes it palatable for both children and adults, and there are a number of cute little catchy singalong type tunes interspersed as well. This is my favorite show so far that I've seen the group present, but I always rely on the opinion of my four year old for the last word, and despite being a little under the weather, he enjoyed it, giggling at the appropriate times, and watching with rapt attention.

This version of Cinderella includes a cheeky mouse named Mildred, who speaks with a British accent, and whose appearances allow for some friendly audience interaction. As in the original tale, Cinderella is abused with insults and extra chores by her wicked Stepmother, and her goofy stepsisters. An invitation to the royal ball arrives, but Cinderella is put to work and prevented from going. However, her Fairy Godmother shows up to perform some magic tricks which allow her to attend anyway. Of course, she's the belle of the ball, and thoroughly enchants the young Prince. In her haste to exit by midnight she leaves a shoe behind, and the Prince searches the countryside for a perfect match. The twist here is that when the Prince and Cinderella finally do meet up, she invites her family to live with them despite their nasty behavior, which enforces the message of kindness that's at the heart of this adaptation.

An interesting casting choice finds Christina Rios and Justin Ivan Brown in roles that are remarkably similar to those they're currently playing in Stray Dog Theatre's production of Into the Woods. Rios is a delight, as always, in the part of Cinderella, and her sweet voice and charm enliven upbeat numbers like "Be Kind" and "Smilin'". Brown brings his comic timing to the fore as the Prince, with some particularly nice adlibs providing unexpected amusement. Piwacket veteran Edie Avioli adds to the fun as Mildred the Mouse.

Rachel Visocan and Macia Noorman do fine work as Cinderella's stepsisters Helga and Gertie, and some of their facial expressions and physical business bring forth considerable bouts of laughter. Charlotte Dougherty, who takes on the role of the deliciously evil Stepmother, is very good as well.

This is a tight little production that benefits from a strong, solid cast. The children I saw in attendance seemed to be having a good time, and they were learning a valuable lesson about kindness in the process. I saw the final performance of CinderBottom this past Saturday, but Jack and the Beanstalk arrives next, with shows on Thursday and Saturday mornings beginning November 5th, 2009 at the Black Cat Theatre in Maplewood, MO.



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