by Shirley Lorraine
Quirky Cinderella careens into Ojai
The Ojai Art Center Theater has taken some risks this season in presenting infrequently produced material for audiences to enjoy. Humor, depth and artistry has been gracing the OACT stage all season. In a wild turn of events, and for just three weekends, the 2018 season concludes with a new and decidedly quirky version of the fairy tale Cinderella. For a complete reality escape, this high energy musical production certainly fills the bill.
First, the style. Forget what you may have seen before. This production is done Panto style, described as a highly exaggerated fractured fairy tale with about as many surprises as one can absorb in an evening. Roles are reversed, twisted and sliced and diced with abandon. There is little evidence of tradition here. And it is all in good fun.
The offbeat concept was originally conceived and directed by Paul Whitworth for the Shakespeare Santa Cruz company with book and lyrics by Kate Hawley. Directed here by Richard Kuhlman, the frenetic action sneaks in many local and theatrical references to tickle the funny bone. But listen and think quickly, or you’ll miss it.
Most over the age of a toddler are familiar with the tale of poor Ella, who is misused and beleaguered by her evil step-mother and two less-than-dainty stepsisters. Her fairy godmother appears to help Ella rise above the cinders to catch the eye of an eligible prince despite many attempts to thwart her good fortune.
In this version, there is a side story involving Little Bo Peep and her band of sheep as well as a narrator-cum-activator character to assist the audience in fully appreciating the action by leading the audience to interact with the characters. Think fairy tale meets a young Shakespeare meets the melodrama. Add vividly colorful costuming, greatly exaggerated movement and expert piano accompaniment by Andy Street and there you have it.
The cast includes Sindy McKay-Swerdlove as the Fairy Godmother, Anna Kotula as the ditzy Queen, Coree Serena Kotula as the King (this is one talented youngster). Poosy Holmes bursts onto the stage as Buttons, the audience liaison, Jodi Brandt takes on the role of Prince Charming, and Denise Heller gives life to Cinderella. Michael McCarthy takes on Peep with unbridled zest.
Marisa Miculian embodies the evil step-mother, with Marilyn Lazik and Sheila McCarthy as the wildly overdone step-sisters. Brett Baxter, Bodhi Bourbon, Don Gaidano, Lenny Klaif and John Valenzuela fill in as multiple personalities. Cinderella’s father is credited to Tarrara Boomdeay (really?) who seems to be having a blast. In fact, they all are.
This is a production filled with slapstick action, continual audience wink-wink moments and an air of theatrical freedom that must be seen to be appreciated. In this difficult year of trials and tears, a true escape is sorely needed. This is it. Bring the whole family. There is something for everyone. Of course, there is a moral at the end but the bottom line is – just sit back and enjoy.
Cinderella continues through December 16. Show times are Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. $20 general admission, $18 for seniors and Art Center members, and $10 for those 25 and under. The Ojai Art Center is located at 113 S. Montgomery, phone (805) 640-8797 or www.ojaiact.org .at: