Three Cinderella Stories | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Three Cinderella Stories

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Three Cinderella Stories, Children's Theatre Fantasy Orchard, at the Mercury Theater. Conceived and directed by Dana Low, Three Cinderella Stories introduces young audiences to folktales from different cultures. The liveliest is the African story: Francis Wilkerson portrays a good, kind girl who suffers from low self-esteem and whose fiercely spoiled stepsisters (Jennifer Liu and Monica Rodriguez) thwart her plans to meet the prince who plans to wed. Michael Sherman's choreography and R&D Fight Choreography's broad slapstick fights enliven the tale.

In the Cinderella story from China, a magic box from an ogress helps the heroine when her stepmother (a monotonously strident Rodriguez) tries to keep her from the prince. Though the narrative has plenty of interesting characters, amateurish performances and an uninspired staging keep this production from reaching its potential. "The Witch's Face," a lackluster remount from the 2000 season, is only tenuously linked to the theme. A Spanish troubadour (overplayed by Anthony Wills Jr.) falls in love with the witch Emeryea (a bland Belinda Copeland), who is no Cinderella. The play's "it's what's inside that counts" moral gets lost in an abrupt ending drowned out by a distracting sound track.

This well-intentioned show begins with children chanting "share the magic," but the stories' fantastic nature is definitely dulled by their surroundings: it's hard to see ourselves in a magic forest when the set is the kitchen or bedroom from Over the Tavern.

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