Kids present wacky update of Cinderella tale

play review /// ‘If the Shoe Fits’


LINES AND BLOCKING—From left: Allison Gertler as the Town Crier, Kailyn Pickens as Stella and Bella Bourland portraying Della as they rehearse for the comedy “If the Shoe Fits” at the Hillcrest Center. Courtesy of Paul Cranmer

“Carol Brady was never this mean!” cries Cinderella about her wicked stepmother. This is just one of the lines in “If the Shoe Fits,” Hillcrest Players’ irreverent retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale that had baby boomers laughing along with their kids last week at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. The show plays twice more this weekend.

Director Ivy Ratafia uses a cast of two dozen youngsters ages 7 to 14 to get the job done, many of whom are being introduced to theater for the first time. Not only do they do a great job memorizing their lines, but they also understand and take pride in each character’s motivations.

Karen Woodford’s story focuses more on eligible bachelor Prince Owen than Cinderella. The prince’s parents, King Rupert (Max Baxter) and Queen Celeste (Tessa Hallock), are upset that the Kingdom of Kravitz is the only one that doesn’t yet have its own website. The prince (Casey Hirsh) wants to go to college to study computers and doesn’t have time to indulge in silly Kravitzian traditions like the graduation ball.

But trouble looms on the horizon in the form of the king’s evil advisor Valda (Amelia Daisa), who is plotting to replace the prince with a robotic lookalike (shades of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) in order to gain power to the throne. Kravitz Tradition intervenes, however, as the prince is forced to attend his graduation ball and select a wife. (“I hate these stuffy social occasions,” complains the King.)

Meanwhile, Cinderella (Kaitlyn Bartlow), who just wants to study music, has to deal with a Fairy Godmother (Kennedy Baltau) disguised as the Avon Lady. The Prince and Cinderella fall in love-at-first-sight at the ball, but face interference from Valda, who schemes to get her coarse friend, Varina, to become Mrs. Prince.

Chloe Skye Garcia evokes laughs with her portrayal of the anything-but-subtle Varina, who has the voice and subtlety of a bull moose. Valda kidnaps the prince with help from the Python Gang, who knock him out with a stuffed teddy bear, replacing him with the pre-programmed imposter.

The fast-moving story includes plenty of pop culture references and lasts a little more than an hour, short enough to keep the younger audience members from fidgeting. Hillcrest Players uses the set of “Princess Ida,” the Gilbert and Sullivan opera that runs during the evening, to represent the Victorian Castle Hildebrand.

Holly Ratafia designed the costumes for the kids, which include colorful ball gowns and flowing regal robes.

Shir Silberstein plays the court jester, who is little more than an annoyance to the evil Valda. When Nicky (Genevieve Benn) and the jester ask the prince if he’d like to go to the Royal Arcade (“I hear they’ve got video jousting!” the jester says), Valda tells them, “The prince is far too busy to waste his time on goof-offs like you,” to which the jester responds, “Hey, goofing off is my job.”

The prince also has his own Royal Fan Club, consisting of Suzy Schmidt, Caroline D. Nese, Ayaan Singh, Juliet Schohn and Diana Graves. Members of the Python Gang include Marina Markrud, Brody Wright, Sophia Grimm, Elyse Novak and Emerson Maxwell. Allison Gertler plays the bell-ringing town crier, who is interested in doing anything but her job.

Rounding out the cast are Ruth Susheela Butler as Miss Schiffermaker, the royal social director, Bella Bourland and Kailyn Pickens as Della and Stella, the stepsisters, and Maya Geller as the stepmom.

“If the Shoe Fits” ends its run with performances at 1 and 3 p.m. Sat., March 24 at the Hillcrest Center, 403 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. Call (805) 381- 2747 or visit hillcrestarts.com for tickets.