Your Average Everyday Fairy Tale
Starlight Theatre Association
On the opening night of Cinderella (Tuesday, the 26th), the audience was packed in to see a fairy tale brought to life on the Starlight stage. And one must remember that very important piece of information: it's a fairy tale - which bears almost no resemblance to real life (including the faces village people make when listening to news regarding their government). The production was exactly what it was expected to be - a child-crowd pleaser, exhibiting almost no value to anyone looking for theatrical innovation (be it for set, choreography, costumes, props, music, or acting).
Directed by Mark Madama and stage-managed by Theresa Furphy, this production had a cohesive and well-thought-out feel to it (however much of a replica it was). Transitions were seamless - something expected of Starlight Theatre, and the sets (Jason Taylor - Head Carpenter) were beautiful, grand, and simple in nature. Cinderella's house had nice perspective to invoke a feeling of grandeur, and the clock, specifically, was impressive - however much it provoked fear for the lives of the actors if it was not rigged securely (which it probably was). Sound levels were questionable during bits of scenes where spectators were struggling to understand the performers over what felt like blasted ambient music. But the Musical and Vocal Director, Anthony Edwards, handled himself nicely in working with the flow of the show as well as with the flow of the actors. Properties Head, Michele Barney, gave the audience what it needed to see to fill in any blanks - except for the scroll, which actually was blank. Costumes, provided by Costume World Theatrical, and assigned by Gayla Voss, were appropriate, and in the case of Cinderella's step-family, stole the visual aspect of the show. Joy's hair and feathers, in particular, seemed to be larger and funnier than a lot of the spoken jokes in this production. Something that was decidedly not funny, though, but instead disappointing, were the "glass" slippers - which, so evidently, didn't resemble glass at all. The fairy godmother certainly could have whipped up something better than white shoe with glitter on it. The choreographer, Linda Goodrich, certainly didn't pull out any stops, but she didn't disappoint either. Ultimately, the dance numbers were pleasurable but evoked similarities of nothing more than an intermediate jazz routine most of the time - but they did take a turn for the best during the pumpkin-into-carriage routine. Note: How does always-secluded-never-allowed-to-go-out Cinderella know the party dance, anyway? Oh well.
Speaking of Cinderella, Kara Lindsay had some very nice moments as the dreamy-eyed, ambitious, and slightly odd country bumpkin. The stand-off between her and the window as well as many of her facial expressions lent to a lovely naivety and goofiness that made her Cinderella into something a little different than a cookie-cutter representation of other well-known productions. Though most of her performance was to the metaphorical "T" of what Cinderella should be like, songs like "In My Own Little Corner," for example, was just sort of depressing in value. It consisted of bland blocking/choreography and vocal delivery that has been performed a thousand times before. A little more effort in imagination and creativity would have fit Lindsay just fine, but it seemed like the choreographer and the director just left her out to dry on this one. If Lindsay's Cinderella was approaching cookie-cutter, then Claybourne Elder was an unforgiving carbon copy of the Prince's that came before him. Charming, handsome, and refined, Elder was pitch-perfect and moved through the play smoothly, his spine apparently incapable of bending. The moments when he was enthralled with Cinderella (there were few when he was not) were so believable that it made all the girls in the audience wish a man would look at them like that. The Fairy Godmother, Tina Johnson, was not present or powerful enough to play the role she did. Her regular-day costume, hair, and mannerisms made her seem very much like an older woman begging on the street instead of the manipulative, fun, creative, and magnetic soul that's written in the script. Her best moment, and one of the crowd favorites, was when she magically moved Cinderella and the Prince like chess pieces at the palace; her physicality and face, in these few moments, seemed to reflect the fairy godmother spectators get excited to see when they sit down to a production of Cinderella.
The Stepmother and Stepsisters, Joy and Portia, (Paula Leggett Chase, Laura E. Taylor, and Shannon Connolly) were, as expected, the comedic centerpiece of the show. But that being said, it was an unimpressive centerpiece - not nearly what it could have been (or even competitive with what it has been in other productions). The true quality of these characters did not come out until "A Lovely Night," and to anybody who has seen the show, it's widely-known that "A Lovely Night" doesn't come until late in the Second Act! "The Stepsisters' Lament" was a lot like "In My Own Little Corner" in that the choreographer and director seemed to ignore it completely and wish the actors their best with somewhat boring blocking and choreography. "A Lovely Night," however, was particularly enjoyable; Connolly and her outrageous falsetto were extremely valuable as well as Chase and her ridiculous bass. It was so pleasurable to see these actors finally taking chances for the sake of comedy; it's just a shame that it happened so late in the game. Generally, the rest of the cast just-plain did their jobs. They were energetic, quick, and talented - perfect pawns in a fairy tale beautiful life.
Ultimately, Cinderella is perfect for a family outing with the kids. Children will have their eyes gleaming and their mouths hanging open due to the amount of spectacle. The fog machine, the lights, and the sets that seems to be "floating in the air" and move by magic make Starlight Theatre's production of Cinderella a cookie-cutter fairy tale where a shoe fitting is enough cause to get married. However, if a theatre-goer is looking for a bit more than cookie-cutter, he or she is more likely to find it in the Crossroads District of KC. The show runs through July 31st; visit the Starlight website for more information.