Danielle Wade and Jeff Lillico. Photo Racheal McCaig Photography
Reviewed by James Karas
Ross Petty’s Cinderella: The Gags to Riches Family Musical is a riot. It will play at the Elgin Theatre until January 4, 2015 and provides a theatrical experience where stage and audience are charged with energy and joy. It is something that performers dream of creating and audiences dream of seeing.
Petty’s forte is fracturing fairy tales, as he puts it, and this Cinderella is no different. Our heroine runs an organic vegetable booth at a Farmers Market in Toronto and she is just two weeks short of the age of majority. In those two weeks her evil stepmother wants to take way her business and turn it into a store selling Hypno Chips containing benzene!
Cinderella wants to participate in a reality show on CBC called EligiBall and meet Max Charming but her stepmother aptly named Revolta Bulldoza does all she can to prevent it. Her nasty Hypno Chips are effective but not as effective as the magic wand of Plumbum, the Fairy Godmother.
That is a bare outline of the fracturing of the fairy tale and Cinderella does go to a ball in a real horse-drawn carriage, meets Max, the evil stepsisters are put in their place, chips are vilified, healthy food is glorified and no doubt we all live happily ever after.
The fun is in between and the most important part of the glorious entertainment is the rambunctious audience, in this case made up of a lot of youngsters ranging from a few months to teens. When Ross Petty appears as Bulldoza, he goads the audience and the young people screech with laughter and express their disapproval with enthusiastic boos. These are no ordinary boos but heartfelt expressions of moral outrage that is simply hilarious. When the wholesome and pretty Cinderella (played beautifully by Danielle Wade) appears there is nothing but love emanating from the auditorium.
That is not all. When they sing on stage, the young sing along. I was accompanied by a bright-eyed and energetic six-year old who knew all the lyrics and expressed her approval and condemnation with the promptness and zeal of a most discerning and sensitive adult.
Cleopatra Williams, Bryn McAuley and Ross Petty. Photo Racheal McCaig Photography
There are contemporary references that most youngsters could not relate to. They did not concern them. Olivia Chow, Hazel McCallion, the Fords. Kathleen Wynne, John Tory and a host of others made their way into the show.
Petty dominates the show with non-stop comic business and singing. The humour goes from high to low and the audience just loves to “hate” his Revolta Bulldoza.
Dan Chameroy is riotous as the Fairy Godmother falling down the stairs, bumping into things and having a magic wand that is out of juice. Jeff Lillico is a wholesome Max Charming, a pop star who wants to be loved for himself.
Petty has found a nifty if not terribly original way of financing the show – advertising. There are several commercials incorporated in the show that advertise the sponsors in the context of the fairy tale. The Toronto Star, CIBC, Hilton Hotel, PC Mobile are interspersed using characters from the show with humour and minimal interference.
The whole enterprise from gags , to dancing, to pratfalls, (not to mention horses on stage) is expertly directed by Tracey Flye.
I make no secret of the fact that I enjoyed the show immensely. On the stage, there is a riotous musical with great humour, marvelous dancing, kaleidoscopally colourful sets and sheer joy in telling a morality tale. In the audience, there was infectious enthusiasm, fists thrown up in the air in disproval and shrieks of appreciation. It was a symbiosis that may be taken as both a fine definition of theatre and a night at the theatre.
CINDERELLA, The Gags to Riches Family Musical opened on November 27 and will play until January 4, 2014 at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St. Toronto, Ontario. www.rosspetty.com