One of the best things about the Fringe is its ability to throw up unexpected surprises; ducking into a pub to escape the worst ravages of the Scottish summer, it’s not uncommon to chance upon a free stand-up show that proves to be infinitely better than the risible fare you wasted £12 on the night before. Even those who plan their Fringe with military precision are apt to stray from the programme on occasions, for what would life be without a little spontaneity?
I was supposed to have been reviewing a show comprising 30 plays crammed into 60 minutes, but instead wound up watching Cinderella: The Musical. This proved to be a blessing, for as well as slashing the number of plays on my reviewing schedule by a factor of 30, Cinderella proved to be great fun.
Produced by American High School Theatre Festival, Cinderella: The Musical casts its protagonist as a bookish geek who eschews glass slippers for Converse sneakers and balks at the prospect that she should ever take an interest in the opposite sex. I’d always been under the impression that it was Belle from Beauty and the Beast who was the bookworm, but then I guess it’s easy to mix up the Disney princesses, what with their identical demands for handsome princes and a life of domestic servitude. “Kissing boys? I don’t think so – I’ll stick to kissing toads. ‘Toads forever and boys never,’ opines the nerdish Cinderella. The prince is similarly averse to this whole love malarkey, appearing to be more interested in his philosophy tomes than swapping saliva with yukky girls. One swift wave of the fairy godmother’s wand however and it’s instant puberty - hormones run wild and books are abandoned with the sort of haste normally reserved for Katie Price novels.
Cinderella: The Musical is simply produced, with little in the way of lighting and a stage set that could generously be described as humble and less generously as non-existent. What Cinderella may lack in visuals however it makes up for with its good-natured script and amiable cast, headed by the undoubted star of the show – stepmother Hilda, a woman who puts the manic in Germanic. This may be the first production of Cinderella to feature a female lead who looks more homely than the wicked stepmother; even a wave of the wand to vanquish Cinderella’s glasses can’t quite do the trick. It’s not the fault of our princess-in-waiting however, for Hilda outshines the entire cast as she lusts after the king and tries her damnedest to marry off her airhead daughters. Ditzy blondes appear to be all the rage at this year’s Fringe, with the ugly sisters cast as a pair of bratty Yanks. Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie have a lot to answer for.
Amidst all the singing, dancing and tomfoolery, we’re even treated to an alternate rendition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, as told by the palace jester. That’s right – it’s a fairy tale within a fairy tale. Just as it threatens to get all Inception however, Hilda appears to administer an elbow drop to Cinderella’s Converse ‘glass slippers’ as she attempts to extinguish love at first base.
‘So many women, so many smelly feet,’ laments the prince, hawking around the box of discarded footwear he’s left holding in the wake of the ball. After visiting all of the aspiring princesses in the kingdom, there’s just one shoe left – the shoe of choice for grunge rockers, hipsters and bookish Cinderellas the world over. There’s just enough time for a Glee-style medley of hits and then the audience can scurry off to live happily ever after.