The African-American Shakespeare Company and Carlton Leake have put a refreshing and updating spin on the classic fairytale. Additionally, Carlton Leake's score is elegant and memorable, leaving the audience humming the songs as they leave the theater. This version centers on a modern-day grandmother that is caring for her young granddaughters. The girls are fighting, as all siblings will do, so she decides to teach the girls about love, family, forgiveness, and overcoming adversity by telling them the tale of Cinderella. The magical tale captures the hearts of and mesmerizes her granddaughters just as much as it does the audience.
Direction and Choreography by Patdro Harris captures the fun, youthful energy of the production. His staging is spot-on and fantastic, never missing a beat of hiding any small detail from view of the entire audience (i.e. Cinderella's exposed toes at the end of the show). Patdro Harris' cast is full of exuberance and makes their character portrayals leap off the stage and into the hearts of every member of the audience, regardless of their sex or race. Moreover, he delicately ensures the balanced writing of the show is brought to life by treating each delightful and humorous scene and each tender and heart-warming scene with equal gravity. Under Patdro Harris' direction, every emotion is present and equally affecting, always appropriately moving the audience.
Starring as Cinderella, Teacake is a spectacular revelation. She adroitly convinces the audience of her character's plight and arc from enslavement to freedom. With a touch of "Diva-tude" she lets her stepmother and stepsisters know that she is forgiving, despite their bad treatment of her. She makes the lessons that CINDERELLA can teach everyone tangible and relatable to every member of the audience. Teacake's masterful performance encourages us to all reflect on our own adversities and how we can make ourselves better by overcoming them. Moreover, Teacake's vocal prowess is simply divine. Whether signing a heart-rending soul ballad or a pop-infused love melody, her voice is gorgeous and captivating. However, I would contest that the most wonderful aspect of her portrayal is Cinderella is when she acknowledges that, with help, she has found her own strength and knows that she can be strong on her own, with or without anyone else. This lesson is one that all women need to learn, especially when mainstream media wants to make them believe they need a boyfriend that they can give themselves to completely to be worth anything in society.
Jonathan Kirkland's Prince Charming is surprisingly complex. He longs to understand people so that he can rule them better. He is often is developing clever ruses to mingle with The Commoners. Likewise, his Prince Charming is looking for more than a bride-he wants a soul mate that he can enjoy on an intellectual level. Jonathan Kirkland understands the complexity of his character and adeptly conveys it the audience. His vocal instrument is powerful, refined, and a pleasure to witness as well.
Regina Hearne is marvelous as both the Grandmother and Fairy Godmother. The audience loves her every second she is on stage, as she commands their attention and emotions with ease. She gets to deliver some of the funniest lines, and she readily and capably evokes laughter from the audience. Her powerhouse voice is perfectly suited for her songs, and wows the audience again ad again.
Rachel Hemphill Dickson's Stepmother, Troi Aryana Bingham's Shaniqua (a stepsister), and Roenia Thompson's Zonita (another stepsister) are fantastically humorous and wicked all at the same time. Nasty at every turn, the audience simply loves to hate these women and cannot wait to see what crazy antic they will employ next. Despite being the villainesses of the show, the audience truly enjoys them from beginning to end. Each also has a nice singing voice and gets to show it off throughout the performance.