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Rumpelstiltskin

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Rumpelstiltskin, Emerald City Theatre Company, at the Apollo Theater. The latest Emerald City children's musical theater offering is clever and fun but lacks the company's usual polish and vivacity. Alyn Cardarelli's book adapts the familiar tale of a mischievous troll who will claim the firstborn son of the princess if she can't guess his name. After all, when she was a mere miller's daughter he did help her win the prince's hand by spinning straw into gold.

With its sly nods to other fairy tales, contemporary references, and goofy characterizations, the play is well suited to both kids and adults. But its message about honesty is dulled by a sometimes muddled, low-momentum production. The songs--with music by Steve Goers and lyrics by Cardarelli--aren't catchy enough to keep up with director-choreographer Michael La Tour's energetic, often slapstick staging, and the cast's merely capable singing is no help. Only Michael Kingston as the buffoonish miller makes a dynamic impression. Aaron Graham gives Rumpelstiltskin a dapper pride but doesn't have the charisma for the title role. Michael Herschberg, Dana Cruz, Brian McKnight, and Christa Buck have their comic moments, but overall the ensemble need to invest more effort and dig deeper into their characters. Playing types and underlining jokes with clunky deliveries or big facial expressions, they rely on audience innocence and goodwill to make their impact.

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