Little girls dressed in big Cinderella ball gowns may have been slightly disappointed when watching the half-way there version of this Disney princess story at the Emerald City Theatre company's Water Tower Place production.
Instead of big fancy gowns, sparkles and an over-the-top ball, this subdued Cinderella had calmer gowns, a timid set and a depressingly empty ball. And while they stuck with the general theme: Poor Cinderella wants to go to the ball to meet the prince (Blake Reddick) while the evil stepsisters (dressed in drag) prevent her from meeting her prince, the characters this time were slightly sarcastic.
When the fairy Godmother turned the rat into a man, it's explained that, "the only difference between rats and most men is men's opposing thumbs." When the evil stepsisters (Tommy Bullington and Mark Kosten) want to know who will clean up after them if Cinderella (Missy Karle) leaves, it's explained that they should marry and have their husbands do the housework.
A feminist take on the traditional fairytale would have been interesting for the crowd of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, but the production didn't go beyond the scattered sarcastic comments that confused the children and stopped the pace of the show for the adults. The stepsisters panted like dogs whenever they glimpsed the prince, while Cinderella couldn't go to the ball simply because she lacked high heeled shoes.
The show had some nice musical interludes, which were sung expertly, but the canned instruments were too loud and it was difficult to hear the lyrics. During each song, the children fidgeted, got up and started talking - and it was hard to blame them. It was impossible to understand the ballads, and the music wasn't magical.
Still, it wasn't a total fail. For the most part, the mini-theatergoers appeared to enjoy the show - and even if they didn't, the characters made up for it after the curtain rose when they posed for pictures and signed autographs for the dazzled children.
Cinderella will be playing through Jan. 6 at the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut. Tickets are $16-$22. Call (800) 775-2000 or go online to Ticketmaster.com for tickets.
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
See more of Danielle's stories here.