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REVIEW: Hilarious Return of Cinderella (Children’s Theatre Company)

Rajane Katurah and Alexcia Thompson in the Children’s Theatre Company production of Cinderella. Photo by David Rubene Photography.

Children’s Theatre has launched a raucous and hilarious remount of Cinderella.  This production is based on John B. Davidson’s adaptation of Charles Perrault’s original fairytale.  I saw this fantastic show in 2016 and wondered how it would play with the numerous cast changes.  But Director Peter C. Brosius, who was also the director in 2016, succeeds in making the show still rock with the new cast members.

Pearl (Kimberly Richardson, top) is ejected from the ball. Photo by David Rubene Photography.

The one returning lead cast member is Autumn Ness as Cinderella’s stepmother. Ness takes on the role of both host and the central protagonist in the show. Shortly after the show begins, she comes down to the audience and picks on a victim to mediate a dispute between her two daughters. After doing so, the victim learns he will be the subject of a webcam during the show. Whether he was a plant or a real audience member, his slide down his seat out of view of the webcam nearly brought down the house with laughter. Ness does a wonderful job of both interacting with the audience and providing a campy performance on stage. Ness also hilariously goes out of character at times such as when she gives Cinderella a list of chores including doing the dishes, cleaning the floor and then adds “complete the construction on 35W and teach Kirk Cousins how to throw a football.” (Those jokes are for the parents.)

Dorcas (Ashawnti Sakina Ford), the Stepmother (Autumn Ness), and Pearl (Kimberly Richardson) in Cinderella. Photo by David Rubene Photography.

In the 2016 production, Children Theatre’s regulars Dean Holt and Reed Sigmund did a stupendous job of playing the stepsisters in drag leaving big shoes to fill. But Ashawnti Sakina Ford as stepsister Dorcas and Kimberly Richardson as stepsister Pearl stunningly succeed in creating their own unique versions of these spoiled and vain characters.

Ness, Ford and Richardson’s most memorable moment occurs when they barge into the stuffy ball at the palace playing music on their boom box and dragging their own beer coolers. It was both refreshing and reminiscent of the famous Batman (1998) movie scene where Jack Nicholson’s Joker and entourage burst into an elite art museum with a boom box playing Prince’s music.

Did someone say mice? Rajane Katurah with her squeaky rodent costar in Cinderella. Photo by David Rubene Photography.

Rajane Katutah makes an impressive debut as the title character Cinderella. Her singing voice is incredible and shows a wide range in both her solos and duets. Although the vaudeville antics of her step-relatives often overshadow her character, she decisively shines when she can grab the center stage. Dwight Leslie as Prince Eric is comical with his somewhat neurotic behavior, especially around women. Together, Katutah and Leslie make a delightful and idealistic couple.

Naturally, there’s a big, poofy, sparkly dress. Pictured: Rajane Katurah as Cinderella. Photo by David Rubene Photography.

The show throws a lot at the audience with recent pop songs and various jokes that not everyone (especially me when it comes to Lizzo references) will get. But there was a gleeful level of audience participation during the show and audience members seemed reluctant to leave after they joined in singing different pop classics at the end including the child pleasing “YMCA”. Clearly those who are less than 10 years are not going to get all the humor, but between the Cinderella scenes and the Victorian Christmas carols, there is more than enough for them to enjoy.

Cinderella plays through January 5, 2020 at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN.

Bev Wolfe