Just as Gerard Alessandrini changes audience perspective on any show he spoofs in “Forbidden Broadway,” so do Jim Luigs and Scott Warrender with “The Plexiglass Slipper,” their modernist revision of the Cinderella story. Audiences who see it may never look at the old girl with quite the same innocent eyes.
The creators, who scored a success with their 1993 “Ring” cycle parody “Das Barbecu,” look at the centuries-old myth with a new spirit, giving it a contempo flair without losing that fairytale feeling.
Luigs has built up the fairy godmother role (played by a deliciously jaded Patti Allison) as a member of the godmother’s union waiting for her next assignment. Mary Poppins, Glinda and others gather in the union hall to sing the spirited “Your Wish Is Our Command,” before Cinderella meets a woman who promises to make her dreams come true, without the sugar coating.
However, this Cinderella (a tenacious and graceful Kris Danford), and her prince (an uncharismatic Ned Noyes) are unwilling participants in the King and Queen’s plan to find a mate for their son at the ball. Cinderella, in fact, sees the event as a chance to escape her hellish life with her wicked stepmother (Suzanne Grodner) and her gaseous stepsisters (Joshua Rowan and Jaime Tintor).
But the godmother intervenes, turning her mice and pumpkins into footmen and a chariot (well, a Volkswagen Beetle), and Cinderella is off to meet the prince. Of course, they immediately fall in love, but after she retreats to beat her midnight deadline, they reconnect in the woods and reveal they might be ready for some tough love from Dr. Phil. They’ve got issues to resolve.
It’s not quite “Into the Woods,” but does offer a pleasantly refreshing twist.
Acting on a hunch that things aren’t going well, the godmother begs to return but is told she won’t have any magic power, leading her to discover her true maternal instinct. She sings to Cinderella the sweet ballad “The Magic Is You,” one of the highlights in Warrender’s pleasant if slightly generic score.
The other highlight is the bitchy “Motherhood” sung by Grodner, who makes the most of the comic evilness. She’s dressed to look like a cross between Cruella de Vil and Joan Crawford, as she bemoans her fate with a bottle and such lyrics as “You’re doomed no matter how hard you try: You’re born, you have your kids, and then you die! If you’re lucky!”
In Luigs’ version, the Queen was once a theater dancer who captured the King’s eye from the stage. Wanda Richert returns to her “42nd Street” roots with a spirited tap routine to “One Step.” However, as graceful and beautiful as her dancing is to watch, A.C. Ciulla’s choreography doesn’t create the desired excitement.
The Asolo Rep production, staged by Danny Scheie, brings together a mostly spirited cast that only occasionally overreaches toward shtick when simplicity would be funnier and more touching.
While there are only a few strong singers in the cast, musical director Nick DeGregorio brings out the best in terms of character during the songs.
The sets and costumes by Eduardo Sicangco (who also designed the original “Das Barbecu”) combine bland grays with a colorful fairytale world glimpsed through a cut-out pumpkin frame.
The production and show have occasional flaws — the story wanes a bit whenever the Godmother and Stepmother are offstage — but this Cinderella variation adds some zest to the oft-told tale and provides theaters with a new alternative to the overly familiar versions already available.