CHILDREN'S THEATER REVIEW : 'Cinderella' Goes Wild in Westminster : The lively show, which overflows with an array of songs, dances and quirky characters, will continue through Sunday at the Cultural Arts Center.


When I was in college, I had this great part-time job at a See's Candies store. The pay was nothing to write home about, but, oh, the fringes. From lemon creams to toffee crisps, I taste-tested my way into a blissfully befuddled candyholic haze.

Audiences leaving "Cinderella, Cinderella" may find themselves in a similar state. An original children's musical that overflows with a wild array of songs, dances and quirky characters, the Orange County Children's Theatre production continues through Sunday at the Westminster Cultural Arts Center.

"Cinderella, Cinderella," written and directed by Carole Cooney, draws heavily on situations and characters from several ethnic versions of the familiar tale. A sacred bird comes courtesy of the Zuni Indians; a magic skeleton was borrowed from the Middle and Near East. The list goes on (organizers would have done well to include more detailed program notes), and when Cooney's own off-the-wall touches are thrown in, the result is a colorful though sometimes confusing concoction that probably will charm the kids and leave most adults at least a little perplexed.

The story goes something like this (try to stay with me on this one): Beautiful Cinderella (Michelle Waters) is forced to be a servant in her own home to a pair of wretched stepsisters (Carrie Reck and Amanda Loomer) and a spacey stepmom (Jillian Jacobs), catering to their every whim while trying to keep the family chateau in some sort of order. When the invitation to the ball arrives, you-know-who gets the royal snub, and the stage is set for revenge.

Same old stuff, right? Hang on to your hats. The ride gets wild quick.

Instead of one standard fairy godmother, three otherworldly folk come to Cinderella's aid. Button (Daniel Staggs), a pint-sized rapper with an eye for mischief, and his mother, Esmelda (Kelly Trenary), team up on the magical end of things, providing much of the play's goofball humor. Mother Spirit (Kimberly Irons) steps in on more ethereal matters, providing solace and comfort to the downtrodden miss.

Oh, did I mention the cow?

It seems Cinderella's only earthbound pal is Missy the talking cow (Daryn Mack handles the front end, Sebastian Lopez brings up the rear), who dispenses some surprisingly sage advice for a bovine, and then promptly kicks the bucket so that her bones, when placed in a magic box, will help Cinderella fulfill her dearest wish which, of course, is to go to the ball.

Meanwhile, with Button's help, things are getting pretty rowdy at the castle. The Prince (Luis Reyes) breaks into an impromptu Elvis impersonation, and the entertainment revolves around a couple of Rollerblading bears, some tumbling squirrels and a guest appearance by the sacred bird (Gina Cirivello) who, between pirouettes, slips the Prince half of a spangly heart, a tip-off to his future romantic encounter. Cinderella makes her entrance, the Prince goes ga-ga, the slipper is dropped, and the search is on.

We still have the chicken soup thing to go through, but in the interest of brevity, let's just leave it there for now.

As if all this wasn't enough to keep our attention, Cooney and choreographer Jennifer Nielsen have woven in countless clever but overlong dance sequences, ranging from Cirivello's graceful ballet/modern dance to a campy can-can by the ladies of the court. Musical numbers (lots of these, too) are handled with varying degrees of ability by the 8-to-17-year old cast, with the strongest vocal work by Irons as the Mother Spirit and Mack, who sheds the cow head long enough to play the King. Judging from last weekend's opening show, Waters and Reyes as Cinderella and the Prince are fine, attractive young actors but could use some help with their vocal skills.

Gena Strelow's costumes and Wanda Warburton's sets are surprisingly lush for an amateur company. But the real visual plums are the dozens of wigs, goofy conglomerations of polyester batting, fake flowers and ribbons, fashioned by a battalion of stage moms.

'Cinderella, Cinderella'

An Orange County Children's Theatre production, written and directed by Carole Cooney. Choreography by Jennifer Nielsen. With Michelle Waters, Luis Reyes, Kelly Trenary, Daniel Staggs, Jillian Jacobs, Carrie Reck, Amanda Loomer, Kimberly Irons, Daryn Mack, Sebastian Lopez and Gina Cirivello. Set by Wanda Warburton. Costumes by Gena Strelow. Lights by Carlone Herman. Sound by Bill Bingham. Continues tonight at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Westminster Cultural Arts Center, 7571 Westminster Blvd. (at Hoover Street). Tickets: $5 to $7. (714) 962-8344.

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