CINDERELLA: Holiday panto. By Stewart McKie. Directed by Allen
McKelvey. (Through Dec. 22. San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and
American Citizen's Theatre at the Ira & Leonore S. Gershwin
Theater, 2350 Turk Blvd., San Francisco. Two hours, 20 minutes.
Tickets $19-$26. Call (415) 392-4400 or visit http://www.sfshakes.org/).
"Surely an hour or two will do," the Fairy Godmother promises in
doggerel rhymed couplets, "to make Cinderella's dream come true."
Actually, it takes a bit longer than that to reunite hapless
heroine, glass slipper and handsome prince. But the audience at
Monday's "Cinderella" opening at the Ira & Leonore S. Gershwin
Theatre didn't seem to mind a bit.
For its first holiday show, the San Francisco Shakespeare
Festival is presenting what may be the city's first "panto" (or
pantomime), the hallowed burlesque form popular throughout the
British Isles for almost three centuries.
The script, not to be confused with the "Cinderella" that
Shakespeare Santa Cruz has staged in the past (this year, SSC's
panto is "Gretel & Hansel"), is authentic. Written by the late
Stewart McKie of Scotland, it's been adapted and staged by Belfast
native Allen McKelvey, whose American Citizen's Theatre is
It's all silliness and sentiment -- the familiar fairy tale
compounded with farcical interludes, burlesque cross-dressing,
Laurel and Hardy routines, plenty of audience interaction and songs
ranging from Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hammerstein to Neil Diamond
and Sonny Bono. Not to mention local celebrity walk-ons (Supervisor
Tony Hall on opening night, singing "Sh-Boom"). If it's performed
for the most part with better will than skill, that just seems to
add to the good spirits.
Fortunately, the multitalented founder of the Bobs, Gunnar
Madsen, anchors the festivities as a captivating host, actor,
musical director and eminently capable keyboard accompanist.
Elizabeth Allen is a sweetly beleaguered Cinderella, and Lisa Jenai
Hernandez an engagingly dashing Prince Charming. Richard Ryan fills
out some of Derek Sullivan's more outrageous costumes as a
formidable wicked stepmother. Matthew Henerson and Bob Greene bring
down the house with "Sopranos" accents as the thuggish stepsisters.
"Uneven" is a euphemism for the large ensemble's acting, and few
of the singers can match Madsen's delivery, though Hernandez is
beguiling on the Gershwins' "The Man (Girl) I Love," and the
stepsisters hilariously growl- mangle "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best
Friend." McKelvey and choreographer Kristin Price, who'd staged this
show together before in Walnut Creek, manage to blend the disparate
talents well enough that the intent matters more than the execution.
As Jeannette Manor's harried Fairy Godmother says, "These days we
don't seem to make enough time for magic in our lives." "Cinderella"