Penobscot Theatre Company’s holiday show has none of the usual trappings of productions offered this time of year. There’s no Scrooge, nutcracker, Christmas tree or foul-mouthed elf.
“Cinderella: A New Telling of an Old Tale” does have a happy ending, shiny costumes, fairy dust, a trio of cross-dressing meanies, a handsome prince, Little Bo Peep and dancing sheep. The audience at Sunday’s sold-out matinee, which was made up of little girls dressed for a ball and grown-ups of all ages, embraced the slightly fractured fairy tale.
The musical was written by Kate Hawley and Gregg Coffin in 1999, for Shakespeare Santa Cruz in California and has been performed by the company every year since 2000. PTC’s production is the first time the show has been staged on the East Coast, director and choreographer Nathan Halvorson said last week.
Halvorson wrings all the joy and comedy out of the show, which includes enough audience participation to keep the kids from losing interest. The jokes are pretty evenly divided between the children and the grownups with a few sprinkled in for the theater junkies. For example, the stepsisters are named Goneril and Regan after King Lear’s ungrateful daughters.
Dominick Varney as Mrs. Baden-Rotten, Cinderella’s evil stepmother, and Ben Laymen and Jesse Havea delight the adults with their antics, including going to extremes to make sure their feet will fit into the glass slipper. They work together like a well-oiled machine at the center of a cheap drag show to the delight of adult theater-goers.
The trio almost steals the show but Stephanie K. Colavito as Cinderella projects such charm that she outshines everyone else on stage. Colavito also lets the character’s innate goodness shine through without letting her Cinderella become saccharine. The John Bapst Memorial High School senior also has a beautiful soprano voice that wraps around theatergoers like a warm blanket.
Christie Robinson as Cinderella’s friend Buttons and Tina Burns as the girl’s fairy godmother also give high energy performances. Both expertly engage the children in the audience, drawing them into the action without actually pulling them onstage.
The costumes, designed by Jess Fialko, are a luscious visual delight. The designs she created for Varney accentuate his tall, thin physique and says more about Mrs. Baden-Rotten’s personality than the name does. Sean McClelland’s set and Michelle Caron’s lighting design are warm and welcoming. The technical aspects of the show are superb.
While this “Cinderella” is not the traditional holiday show, it captures the spirit of the season — love and kindness win out in the end.
“Cinderella: A Retelling of an Old Tale,” runs through Sunday, Dec. 29; performances are at 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays; there’s a special 10 a.m. matinee on Christmas Eve and there is no show on Christmas Day, or on Mondays or Tuesdays. Before each Sunday show there will be a Prince and Princess Lunch for young theater-goers. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for 18 and under; for tickets and information, call 942-3333 or visit penobscottheatre.org.