nytheatre.com review by Rohana Elias-Reyes
September 19, 2009
"I've already seen a Cinderella puppet show," whined my daughter en route to the opening presentation of the New Victory Theatre's Scottish Festival. As it turns out, she needn't have worried; Shona Reppe Puppets' Cinderella is unlike any other you and your kids may have seen. It is a magical and mischievous delight; combining simple storytelling with lush and inventive images.
The set, designed by Reppe, is an ingenious cross between a kitchen counter and something you might see falling down Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole. It's filled with lots of drawers, doors, and imaginative little props; just the sort of thing not only to engage the curiosity of any young master of make believe, but also to emphasize that things aren't always what they appear. If traditional versions of this story rely on spells, wands, and fairy dust, this production veers more toward illusion and slight of hand.
Cinderella is a particularly sad, bedraggled, and runny-nosed puppet, designed and skillfully brought to life by Reppe, who steps into the role of the fairy godmother when she feels Cinderella's taken enough abuse at the hands (literally) of the deliciously mean and spoiled step-sisters. These she plays to the hilt as a pair of brightly colored fancy gloves. These four characters are the only ones we see, but John Williamson's wonderful sound design brings a distant father, a vicious dog, and hints of the outside into Cinderella's world. All of the action takes place in Cinderella's home. The audience never sees the prince or goes to the ball because, as Reppe informs us, we weren't invited. However, we are treated to a beautiful sequence of twirling paper cutouts. As the two-dimensional dresses danced to sweet music, my daughter leaned over and whispered, "it's Cinderella's dream."
Reppe's production does have some moments that are darker or sadder than what is typically offered American children (the traditional cutting off of the stepsisters' toe and heel is included; and though present, Cinderella's father allows her to be abused). However, any harshness is more than offset by the humor, the familiarity of the story, and the inventive theatricality of the production. Both my four-year-old son and six-year-old daughter loved the show. If you have young school-age children, you should hurry to the New Victory. Shona Reppe Puppets' Cinderella isn't likely to turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight, but after September 27, it will disappear.