Review: CINDERELLA…if the Shoe Fits

by Lynn on December 8, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at Theatre Orangeville, Orangeville, Ont. Produced by Theatre Orangeville. Playing until Dec. 23.

Written by Debbie Collins and David Nairn

Directed by David Nairn

Choreography by Candace Jennings

Set design by Beckie Morris

Costume Design by Wendi Speck

Lighting design by Chris Malkowski

Cast: Debbie Collins

Jillian Mitsuko Cooper

Billy Lake

William Lincoln

Connor Meek

Ben Skipper

Musicians: Ryan Avery (Guitar)

Nicholas Mustapha (Musical director-keyboards)

Cinderella like you have never seen her before: smart, contemporary, environmentally responsible. A panto that’s perfect to start off the holiday season with plenty of laughs and appropriate booing.

Cinderella with a twist. Cinderella (Jillian Mitsuko Cooper) is trying to save the family farm. She sells her produce at the local market where she meets Prince William, busking. He gives her a fake name. He does not want to go into the family development business. He wants to be a musician.

Cinderella’s dastardly Evil Stepmother (Debbie Collins) is trying to sell the farm to a greedy development corporation, run by Prince William’s father, even though they can’t find the deed. Then there are Stella (Billy Lake) and Blanche (William Lincoln), Cinderella’s Silly Stepsisters (and the Evil Stepmother’s daughters). I figure if the daughters are named Stella and Blanche then perhaps the Evil Stepmother was literary and was reading A Streetcar Named Desire at one time.

Our guide in merriment is Buttons (a joyful Ben Skipper). He says through the show he will enter, wave, say “Hi, Kids” and we are to wave back and yell, “Hi, Buttons.” He also says that when the Evil Stepmother arrives, we are to boo her roundly every single time. I think we even rehearsed it. However, my audience was a bit hazy on the instructions. When Stella and Blanche arrive, the audience boo them too, so much so that Stella (a very forthright and hair flipping Billy Lake) chastises the audience for not following instructions. They boo harder and do so every time the Silly Sisters appear.

We wait impatiently for the Evil Stepmother (Debbie Collins). She arrives bellowing insults at every person she sees. She incites the audience to boo more. She flings rude remarks, like confetti. Is she ad libbing? Are those comments on the Greenbelt and Doug Ford scripted? Does it matter? As the Evil Stepmother, Debbie Collins is a master of meanness, the well-placed retort, funny, even impish. She owns the stage and it’s impressive to witness.

Cinderella goes to the ball but not as you expect and even the slipper has been given the modern treatment by co-writers Debbie Collins and David Nairn. This is a fairy tale for the modern age and it’s dandy.

As Cinderella, Jillian Mitsuko Cooper is pure charm. She is a smiling, buoyant young woman with integrity, spirit, an optimism that is infectious and a beautiful singing voice. As Prince William, Connor Meek is sweet and shy. Cinderella’s influence makes him stand up for himself with his father. As Buttons, Ben Skipper is always engaging with his “Hi, Kids!” and our reply “Hi, Buttons.” I must confess, I thought that ‘shtick’ went on a bit too long.

David Nairn directs with a good sense of pace and good humour. A few entrances seemed draggy on opening, but I’m sure will be worked out as the run progresses. The set by Beckie Morris is simple, colourful and efficient. Wendi Speck’s costumes are terrific in encapsulating each character, for example, the Silly Stepsisters are a poem of bad taste, no style and they make the most of it. The Evil Stepmother is all in black frills.  The music played by Nicholas Mustapha and Ryan Avery is unobtrusive and always supports the singers.

Cinderella…if the Shoe Fits is a fresh take on a beloved fairy tale, is modern, funny and great family fare. Let the laughing and booing begin.

Theatre Orangeville Presents:

Plays until Dec. 23, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours approx. (1 intermission).

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