Who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?
Still, it would be understandable if grown-ups raised on this tale of a downtrodden maiden, rescued by a magical fairy godmother and a handsome prince, would balk at taking their kids to see a play billed as “for children.” Perhaps they’d be reluctant to sit through the too familiar story again, or unsure if its damsel in distress message is appropriate for kids in these more enlightened days.
Well, fear not. This Cheryl Willis adaption at Acadia Rep, which is being performed at their Somesville theater throughout the season, is wonderfully clever and has a terrific message. Most of all, it is fun, fun, fun.
At last Saturday’s performance, parents and kids laughed throughout the hour-long — or should I say hour-short— show. Afterward, when their delight overcame their shyness, the little ones mobbed the actors outside the theater for hugs and autographs.
In this version, the story is told by a quintet of bored campers, longing for their mobile phones and other devices. Their counselor, a gloriously goofy Desmond Reifsnyder, convinces them to act out the old fairy tale, taking on the role of one the stepsisters himself.
Hilarity ensues as the campers use the stuff they find at the campsite — tinfoil, towels, trash bags and such for costumes and props, and get increasingly involved in their characters.
Marissa Browning makes a sweet but unusually shrewd Cinderella who does not need a fairy to figure out how to get to the ball. She and Prince Cody do fall in love at first sight as they boogie the night away, but her leaving him one of her shoes is no accident. It is a test of his mettle, a way of saying, “If you love me, find me.”
As the prince, Griffen Shute is a bit more clueless than charming, but, still, enormously endearing and pretty darn handsome, to boot.
Chrissy Taylor’s character is a goth-ish gal, who only engages when things take a dark turn. Taylor manages to transform the girl’s existential, teenage ennui into an equally eye-rolling stepmother whose behavior seems fueled more by boredom than evil.
And finally, Mary Paola and Reifsnyder are an absolute scream as the two stepsisters, most especially as they aggressively horn in on the young couple’s dancing.
There’s a “Saturday Night Live” nod here that the parents should get, and the kids will just think is very funny. In fact, the whole show is full of references that will give the grown-ups bonus belly laughs.
It all comes to a thoroughly satisfying, if a bit unexpected, end.
Great direction by David Blais who never gives the kids on stage a static moment or the kids in the audience a chance to squirm or fuss.
But the lion share of the kudos go to Willis, who wrote such a witty, saucy take on an old chestnut, making if fresh, fierce, and funny.
Cinderella will be performed every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. through Aug. 25. General admission only, tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on performance days. Visit acadiarep.com.