SALT LAKE CITY — I was excited to see Sting and Honey’s production of Cinderella as written and directed by Javen Tanner. I had the pleasure to see its sister production of Sleeping Beauty’s Dream in 2017. Although I missed the second sister production of Snow White in 2018, I was excited to see this third sister production. This trio of productions, all written by Javen Tanner, have in common the use of a different known fairy tale that is entangled into the early versions of the story. Javen Tanner is talented at melding together multiple versions of these classic fairy tales while making them distinctly his own. Although I enjoyed his version of Sleeping Beauty more, I found the variations of Cinderella to be interesting and diverting, especially after having recently seen the musical version of Cinderella.
This particular version of Cinderella had multiple nods to Hamlet. There were parallels I had not noticed before, and there was an interesting contrast between “happily ever after and tragic revenge.” The story, while quite classical in style, still had fun that a contemporary audience could enjoy. Kylee Reynolds’s performance as Rosie, one of the stepsisters to Cinderella had that good classical style mixed with fun. Rosie was the stereotypical beautiful but ditsy stepsister, and she was the most contemporary in her speech and actions of any of the characters. The contemporary choices made her a character that was easier to relate to and made her more endearing than most airheads. Her relationship with Cinderella was particularly enjoyable, and the character’s kindness made Rosie a friend instead of a foe.
Cinderella was played by Rain Flower Tanner. The character had blonde hair and a blue dress and accents that is typically associated with Cinderella. However, this version included a more tragic side to the Cinderella that made her more believable. Rain Flower Tanner did well in her portrayal, and she balanced the mournful with the optimistic very nicely.
There were many others I could talk about among the small cast of this production. I very much enjoyed the interactions between Oliver (played by Jacob Thomason) and Perrot (Brian Whitney). Perrot was quite serious, but I could still see his fun side. I especially enjoyed the scene where the king was making the Prince practice dancing, and the king made Perrot be the Prince’s dance partner. I could see Perrot fighting to not break his serious face, and it was perfectly in line with how I had come to view Perrot. Another interesting aspect to this story was that Cinderella’s father was cursed rather than dead. Commodore Ashbury, played by Stephen Williams, did well at appearing to be cursed/ill. His portrayal reminded me of a stroke victim who was still there mentally but had difficulty communicating his thoughts.
The set for this production was designed by Javen Tanner. It was simple and effective and was made possible through the lighting design by Hayden Phillips. Cylindrical curtains of sheer white fabric surrounded by a well-placed tangle of branches were the only constant pieces of set on stage. Phillips’s design helped to transform the solitary set piece into an old ash tree, a part of the forest, and even the back of the king’s throne. Other set pieces were brought in and out by cast members to help add to the different scenes. I was impressed with the unity in choreography of the changing of the set pieces, especially when the servants removed the chairs where the family of the Ashbury Manor were sitting. The stage hands’s actions were so precise and deliberate that it made an impression, and their deliberateness spoke highly of the quality of the show.
The show is well worth attending, especially if you like classical style theater. The run time is 80 minutes without an intermission, and it is recommended that children under the age of six not attend, because they might not be to sit still for the duration of the production. Although there is nothing inappropriate in the script, the show might be over the heads of the young audience members. However, this is a great production to introduce other young theatergoers to a more classical style of theater. This production is beautifully, simply, and uniquely done. For a new version of a classic fairytale, this is a good production to check out.