by Carole Di Tosti . . .
Second Extension thru February 28 !
The story of Cinderella is a historical tale (one version from Greece is 2000 years old). In case you have missed it, it’s about a lovely teenager who, after oppression by her step-family, advances in her social status through love and marriage. French writer Charles Perralt, in his 1697 version Cendrillion weaved in plot elements of a fairy godmother, pumpkin carriage, glass slipper and an abusive stepmother and stepsisters. It is this iteration on which Disney based his cartoon and films which inspired subsequent retellings through the decades because of the story’s appeal of a woman empowered to change her life and advance into wealth through love.
In its basic elements Hip Hop Cinderella “An Out of This World Musical Adventure” sports familiar tropes. Presented by Amas Musical Theatre (Donna Trinkoff, Artistic Producer) in association with HipHopMusicals.com (Linda Chichester and David Coffman, Co-Founders), this rollicking romp is family friendly and clever. However, on closer inspection the vibrant, entertaining musical, thanks to a treatment by Linda Chichester and David Coffman, Scott Elmegreen (book) and Rona Siddiqui (lyrics, music) is profound, ingenious and a welcome parable with positive messages for our time.
Chichester and Coffman have embellished the story with a futuristic spin. The reimagining begins with a light parody and take-off on Star Wars and morphs into a hybrid, a sci-fi, fairy tale-like musical, referencing Cinderella themes and plot. A title scroll parody of Star Wars opens the musical and we hear a voice-over proclaiming, “The galaxy has lost its mojo and the War of the Words rages on.” The retelling advances now, through a series of fantastic, extra-galactic events, Cinderella inspires and encourages the return of the galaxy mojo with a peaceful, uplifting resolution, snagging the prince’s favor in the process.
Runka, Cinderella’s only friend and confidante is an out-of-date, decrepit robot that she and her father put together when he was alive. In the “Overture,” Runka relays the conflict over a livestreaming Instahologram feed. “Across star systems and space, The Empire is failing, the groove is gone, in the hands of an ailing king, the beat does not go on.” Immediately, we sense the parallels of the musical and our current social malaise. Our culture is in a similar state and many have feelings of despair because of the political chaos and the pandemic. Indeed, we have lost our moderating rhythmic balance and wonder if our society can ever return to normal.
With precision, the book, music and lyrics in the opening numbers present the nature of the individuals who have contributed to wrecking the “mojo” and suggest those brilliant and sensitive ones who will revamp the galaxy to a finer humming order. The superb visuals and futuristic backgrounds cover all bases from Cinderella’s stylish home on planet Centra to the multicolored light show at the Hip Hop Palace on Zolla in a mixture of artistic styles (i.e. cartoon art, photos, video clips). Indeed, director Christopher Scott has familiarized himself with the medium and even uses the capability of the split-screen to enhance the fun and excitement of the Galactic Hip Hop Mask Ball in a rousing number.
Cinderella’s lovely home is where she lives with stepmom Lady Zurka, a self-absorbed female narcissist and stepsisters Zig and Zag who are social media obsessed, vapid reflections of their mother. Cinderella’s oppressive relationship with them becomes apparent in their abusive verbal behavior toward her and Runka and in the lively song “It’s Zurka time.” Only Cinderella appears to have any substance, sensitivity and genius revealed in the ballad where she reminisces about her quantum engineer father in “Remember.”
From the outset, the creative team and the actors have engaged us. The songs are funny and expressive with clever lyrics and tuneful music with hearty beats and rhythms. “Shake your Mass” and “Out of the Basement,” are spot-on as we feel encouraged that Cinderella is emerging like a butterfly to boldly take a stand for herself and gather the courage to go to the Galactic Hip Hop Masked Ball. She nearly misses her opportunity and must rely on Runka’s upgraded expertise to get them to The Hip Hop Palace on planet Zolla .
Arriving just in time, and in her rapping finest, “Ella C.” meets the Prince and is prodded by Runka to “give it her all” in the rapper competition which features various entrants from other planets, as well as her stepsisters who don’t recognize her. The humor with Zig’s and Zag’s bad rhymes and the audience response is hysterical (No spoiler alert here. I don’t want to ruin it.) And Ella C’s (Cinderella) voice and rap does her proud to catch the attention of the prince who seeks out the young woman once attached to a glittering, snazzy sneaker after she leaves the ball at warp speed. The conclusion spun out in the numbers “Trial by Rhyme” and “Limitless” captures perfect moments and creates the celebratory joy of a season that had threatened to end in a quantum void.
From the flippy, DIY, jazzed-up costumes to the “shake your mass” numbers and funny, engaging visuals, this exuberant show is a hit and will spice up your Holiday Season if you are family viewing or looking for encouragement at a down time. Kudos to actors who are alumni students of The Rosetta LeNoire Musical Theatre Academy. These include Alexis Aguiar, Cassandra Barckett, Jamiel Tako L. Burkhart, Brian Criado, Emily Lang and Lexy Piton. Additional praise goes to their director Christopher Scott who brought this wild musical together with Evan Alperone (musical direction) and Matt Gurren (video editor).
You can see Hip Hop Cinderella A New Musical live streamed at Amas Musical Theatre’s site “anywhere, anytime” through 27 of December. For tickets whose purchase goes to benefit Amas Musical Theatre’s education programs, go to https://www.amasmusical.org/ You will be glad you did!
Original Review published December 14, 2020