Ms. Cinderella | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Ms. Cinderella

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Ms. Cinderella, Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre.

Not all new theater deserves support--especially when it runs no risk and breaks no ground. This shallow musical purports to give a feminist spin to Perrault's classic fantasy, aiming for the kind of fractured fairy-tale hipness of Into the Woods, A Change in the Heir, and Once Upon a Mattress. But what it hits is really bad Mel Brooks. Our dim heroine Cynthia (Nancy Voigts) is about as contemporary as Doris Day, a woman who makes the obvious mistake of overlooking a decent joe for a stuffed prince. To learn to weigh love properly she's transported to a pseudo-medieval realm--or, as she says, she gets "stuck in a Golden Book." That's when mediocrity graduates to crowd pandering.

Perpetrated by composer Michael Duff, lyricist Cheri Coons, and actor-writers Sean Grennan and Kathy Santen (who created the justifiable hit Phantom of the Country Palace), this remake destroys the simplicity of its sturdy source, adding a blatant subplot about a false prince trying to distract Cynthia/Cinderella from true values and a usurper seeking to oust the true prince and change the kingdom into a medieval Wal-Mart. Worse than the confusing clutter, however, is the anything-for-a-laugh script--this sort of desperate clowning killed vaudeville. The Dumpster dialogue consists of groaner puns, brand-name anachronisms, Hee Haw humor, broad TV allusions, and tortured English (spoken by a Romanian bag lady/fairy godmother).

The pluses in Joe Leonardo's dogged staging of Duff's pop-pap pastiche score are Voigts's plucky performance and "Put Your Best Foot Forward," a 30s-style tap dance so good it seems stolen from another show. Otherwise, the brow doesn't get much lower than this.

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