Cinderella: A Fairly Tall Tale
Review by Sean McQuaid
Your paternal prattler was in no mood for princesses. He was tired and grumpy and wishing he’d gone to that mashed potato party with Mrs, Prattler, fond as he is of both her and potatoes.
But dauntless daughter Elsa was stoked for the princess show, so ye olde reviewer and his offbeat offspring ambled into the Homburg Theatre to watch the Confederation Centre of the Arts’ new community musical Cinderella: A Fairly Tall Tale. And the critic’s small heart grew three sizes that day, as the daddy-daughter duo enjoyed themselves immensely.
A yuletide jukebox musical written and directed by the Centre’s shiny new artistic director Adam Brazier, Cinderella: A Fairly Tall Tale (CFTT) returns yet again to the Cinderella fairy tale – this time set in a wintry PEI where Cinderella (Alicia Toner) toils thanklessly at the Happiness Hotel until she finds romance with Prince Edward (Aaron Hastelow) through the mystical aid of her Fairly Good Mother (Meghan Hoople) despite the interference of her wicked stepmother Putrid (the conspicuously male Jody Racicot). Hijinks ensue, as they are wont to do.
There’s singing, dancing, slapstick, local humour (the Tignish and Crapaud references are especially good), pop culture references (everything from Shania Twain to Frank Langella) and poop jokes (executed with enough shameless glee, deft wordplay and expert timing to largely negate your constipated critic’s reflexive disdain for such things).
It’s all about as subtle and sophisticated as a pack of strawberry Twizzlers, yet often just as pleasingly sweet. Brazier’s show seldom takes itself too seriously, basically serving as a loose framework for a bunch of cornball jokes and musical numbers. It’s all written and performed with a tongue-in-cheek wink that makes all the silliness palatable, even endearing.
CFTT’s knowingly goofy vibe, its communal spirit (embodied by a pleasingly eclectic 90-plus cast with only several professional actors among them), its variety show elements (such as a talent show segment and some lovely choral singing before the show and during intermission) and a very meta sense of characters consciously putting on a show are all pleasantly reminiscent of The Muppet Show. In fact, one of CFTT’s musical numbers even comes from The Great Muppet Caper (1981).
Welcome added bonuses are CFTT’s video segments directed by Jan Rudd, TV commercials which combine brazenly blatant local business promotion with surreal comedy bits. It’s hard to resent product placement in your entertainment when it’s this funny.
Lead players Toner, Hastelow, Hoople and Racicot are all great. Other standouts include Jacob Durdan as Cinderella’s friend Buttons, an unrecognizably vile Adam Gauthier as wicked stepsister Botox, a similarly hideous and even funnier William Millington as wicked stepsister Bovine, and a note-perfect Fraser McCallum as cheesy talent show host Ryan Seabiscuit.
My second-favourite performer in the bunch is the delightfully pathetic Sarah MacPhee as a teary-eyed town crier, who wrings countless laughs from her one-joke character; but my favourite would be Elsa McQuaid herself, appearing on stage during an audience participation segment as a talent show judge. Impartiality be darned, she was adorable (takes after her mother that way); and the rest of CFTT was pretty good, too.
Online Edition Bonus: Elsa’s Review
As noted above, Elsa was among several kids drafted into appearing on stage as talent show judges, rewarded with plastic light-up wands for their efforts. “I felt like I had butterflies in my stomach while I was on stage,” she says, “but it was worth it because I got this cool wand.”
She said it was “really strange” to be up there in front of so many people. But she concludes, “I enjoyed my time up on the stage, and I could actually see the people doing the music” in the orchestra pit.
She liked the Snow White sequence “because all of the dwarfs were coming behind Snow White and then they wouldn’t stop to walk and it was just really funny.”
“I also loved when the rainbow lights went on the sides” of the theatre walls, she says, a neat effect used recently in Jesus Christ Superstar.
“I thought the commercials were really funny. All of the characters kept on appearing in the commercials and it was just really funny.”
Regarding audience participation of the cheering/booing variety: “I thought that the cheering was okay but the booing was, like, weird to me.”
“I loved the little cute pony that pulled Cinderella and I loved Cinderella's dress. It was all white like a wedding gown but all sparkly, and her old dress transformed into her beautiful dress.” Best spinning transformation since Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, says the paternal prattler…