Review: CINDERELLA: A SALSA FAIRY TALE at Imagination Stage

Running through April 7th

By: Feb. 19, 2024
Review: CINDERELLA: A SALSA FAIRY TALE at Imagination Stage
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Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale is loud, bouncy, and bilingual. The show is part of Imagination Stage's "Greatest Hits" season, as it was originally commissioned and produced at Imagination in 2003. 

The show is a contemporary riff on the classic fairy tale, and deals with contemporary experiences, like immigration, language barriers in schools, and the expectations put on well-performing children. It follows Cenicienta, or Cinderella (Alanna Sibrián) a girl from Puerto Rico, and Rosa (Ariana Caldwell), an American girl, and their Padrino (Enrique Vargas), or Fairy Godfather, the plucky mystical guardian in training.  

Review: CINDERELLA: A SALSA FAIRY TALE at Imagination Stage
Padrino (Enrique Vargas) celebrates with Rosa (Ariana Caldwell), Cinderella (Alanna Sibrián), and Joey (Tyrell Stanley) after getting his wings in Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale, playing at Imagination Stage through April 5. © Photo by Margot Schulman.

Cinderella is excited about her time in America, and is kind to everyone she meets. Rosa is confident and funny, and with her friend and personal cheerleader, Joey (Tyrell Stanley), the two make school a game. 

Each girl gets an explosive introduction through song and dance. Cinderella's music and movements are more influenced by her South American heritage, whereas Rosa's is pure American Hip-Hop. The dancing throughout the show, choreographed by Maurice Johnson ranges from bold and big, to elegant and subtle, and of course, features some Salsa elements. Throughout the show these motifs are blended, just like the experience of the protagonists, through sound and movement.

The stage changes with the show's tones and moods. The set, designed by Matthew Keenan, is a pastel vision of a typical American public school, complete with lockers and moving chalkboards. The image is engaging, and sure to capture the imagination of any young ones. 

It's punctuated by the projections (Jerran Kowalski) and lights (Christian D. Henrriquez). Some audience engagement throughout the show comes in the way of call back cheers for the "pep-squad." Lights and projected words and images let the young ones know its time to engage and shout out, which with young ones, is always fun. The show did a good job of dropping interactions in every so often to keep the audience attentive. 

Review: CINDERELLA: A SALSA FAIRY TALE at Imagination Stage
 Cinderella (Alanna Sibrián) and Rosa (Ariana Caldwell) mop in Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale, playing at Imagination Stage through April 5. © Photo by Margot Schulman. 

As Padrino guides the audience through the parable, themes surrounding judgment, othering, and jealousy arise, and the main conflict between the girls arrives. Padrino uses magic to conjure a basketball competition, and both girls are desperate to compete and win. Throughout the piece Vargas' Padrino is a highlight, with his bubbly movements and cheeky attitude, he easily captures the imagination of the younger ones. 

Later in the show, though we've seen the varied experience of Cinderella, the audience gets to see Rosa be vulnerable for the first time. She's lost the sole support of her best friend to Cinderella, and is worried about the competition. In a twist, Padrino appears, now her Fairy Godfather as well. Through the equal treatment of both girls feelings, a strong lesson about empathy is learned. Maybe even those in the proverbial role of "Wicked Step-Sister" have strong feelings too. 

The piece ends happily, with both girls gaining a friend, and the understanding of another's experience. Padrino gets his official Fairy wings and they all live, you guessed it, happily ever after. 

While entertaining for kids, and teaching moral/life lessons, the show is also academically educational. Cinderella speaks mainly in Spanish, and Padrino switches between the two languages. There is no form of subtitles, leaving the kids to be immersed in the language. The actors expressions works to contextualize the dialogue, even if some of the audience may not understand it. 

The messages are pertinent for children and adults alike, and though the show is definitely directed with children in mind, director Nadia Guevara does a good job keeping things enjoyable for parents. The show delivers on many levels, and is a great show for the Washington DC metro area, with its high Spanish-speaking population and vast cross-cultural experience. Guevara directs from the heart, and luckily 3,000 3rd graders from Montgomery County Public Schools will get to see her and her collaborators work with the "Learning Through Theatre" program. 

Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale runs through April 7th, and information on tickets, including ASL interpreted, and Sensory-Friendly performances can be found on Imagination Stage's website. The show runs a little over an hour, is best suited for children ages 5 and up.