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August 28, 2012 > Theatre Review: Steampunk "Cinderella" a visual treat

Theatre Review: Steampunk "Cinderella" a visual treat

By Julie Grabowski

The tale of a girl named Cinderella is one well and widely known by almost everyone who has spent time on the planet. A kind girl, treated as a house slave by her stepmother and stepsisters, gets a magical trip to the ball via her Fairy Godmother, finds love with the prince, and after a little scuffle over a shoe, presto - lives happily ever after. But Curtain Call Performing Arts sparks curiosity and renewed interest in the familiar story with just one word: Steampunk.

Rogers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" was a made for TV musical that aired in 1957 and underwent remakes in 1965 and 1997. But Curtain Call's unique and lively interpretation is one that you've never seen before, and the bold choice is undoubtedly the heart and success of this production. Steampunk is a genre that evolved from the industrial days of steam power, weaving machinery elements with science fiction, fantasy, and a Victorian sensibility with a punk twist.

"Cinderella is a classic story that has been told in different countries for centuries. Steampunk, to me, is without a specific time period. It has the feel of some tradition in the look of it, but adds fantasy... with an edge," says Director and Choreographer Misty Megia. "The more I researched it, the more I fell in love with the idea of the marriage of tradition with nods to today and the future. Steampunk also has this theme of watches and clock gears, which I find fit Cinderella perfectly. Time is ticking away and you have to reach for what you want in time to get it. Everything about it just fit for what I wanted to say."

The set is awash with gold, copper, and silver hues and comprised of a staircase curving up each side of a mottled wall that serves as the village square, manor house, and royal palace. Atop this wall presides a large, impressive clock to which all the lives below run.

Costume Designer Andrea Gorham delivers an entrancing collection of eclectic and vintage looking getups in gray, black, brown, and navy tones with dashes of purple, red, and orange. The costumes are diverse in look but harmonious in fabulous funk, constructed of goggles, top hats, vests, corsets, watch chains, feathers, patterned tights, lace-up boots, cropped jackets, and floor length coats. Interestingly enough, Cinderella doesn't get any Steampunk treatment herself, wearing the traditional old dress and apron cleaning outfit, a pretty ball dress, and wedding gown. One wonders what that signifies.

But the look of the show isn't the only notable difference; this version of the tale is a little more proactive. Only when Cinderella takes responsibility for her own destiny and decides to go after what she wants, does the Fairy Godmother kick in with the magic, reminding us that most of the time, miracles don't just swirl in and change our lives, they happen when we take that first step forward.

Catherine Williamson is absolute princess perfection as Cinderella. Her carriage, tone of voice, and delivery of lines is right on character, and her singing is gorgeous. She is especially touching when she converses with her wind-up mouse friend, Charles, and imagines all that she can be in the song "In My Own Little Corner." Chafing at the life decided for him, Matt Ono is a sweet and boyish Prince Christopher, endearing and enthusiastic in pursuit of himself and his love.

Kate Offer and Alice Beittel play their parts to the comedic hilt as the hopeless and unappealing stepsisters Grace and Joy. While Beittel goes a bit overboard at times, the two are well matched and provide laughs throughout, including the great number, "Stepsisters' Lament." Ali Lane deals it cool and smooth as the harsh and regal Stepmother, but also gets to indulge in her own well-played comedic moments.

And forget the soft and grandmotherly Fairy Godmother; who couldn't dig a no nonsense woman in heels, purple corset, leather pants, fingerless gloves, and top hat? She states, "I never really wanted to fit in, I prefer to stand out," and Kristina Stasi certainly does that. Super cool and confident, Stasi brings the magic in a whole new way.

With the Steampunk twist, live orchestra, and strong performances, "Cinderella" is a unique, fantasy music box experience worth seeing. And where else can you see a real pumpkin carriage?

Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at http://www.cvartsfoundation.com/ or by calling the Box Office at (510) 889-8961. For more information on the show or Curtain Call, visit http://www.curtaincallperformingarts.org/ or call (510) 909-9516.

Cinderella
Friday, Aug 24 - Aug 31: 8 p.m.
Matinees, Aug 25 & 26: 2 p.m.
Castro Valley Center for the Arts
19501 Redwood Rd., Castro Valley
(510) 889-8961
http://www.curtaincallperformingarts.org/

Tickets: $15 students and seniors, $25 adults

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