SOUTH SALT LAKE CITY — Bravely daring the stifling atmosphere of Covid-19 (the possibly-deadly-but-maybe-not-depending-on-many-factors virus), the Parker Theater has worked hard to keep providing shows for the yearning theatre-going public. Their summer show, Cinderella, has been cut down to one hour, allowing the company to skip the intermission and thus mitigate the possibility of viral spread through audience movement. Though I hope they will be able to produce a full-length version of show, that is unlikely in a time when officials give out mandatory orders like candy.
The story was a little different than I expected, though it had some of the traditional fairy tale and iconic moments. I enjoyed the beginning, where the audience got to see a glimpse of the Cinderella as she chats with the birds about news from the palace. The stepsisters did their usual shrieking, but in this show they had a lot of extra moments to enhance their ridiculousness that I hadn’t seen before. Though it was a familiar story, differences like that were surprising and fun. Even my 4-year-old remained engaged throughout the show, despite the lines being somewhat beyond her comprehension level.
The cast was a small group of six actors; both Spencer Hohl and Whitney Wilkins played two roles. Hohl doubled as the Prince and the outrageous French ball gown designer La Plumba. Wilkins played the Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother. It was fun to see how well these two filled those characters. Hohl had a crazy wig on for La Plumba, and the bangs would hang over his eyes as he exclaimed his excitement or horror over the girls. Hohl also had a lot of energy as the Prince, bounding in to see his father, dancing around with him and making jokes about the princesses he met. My favorite part was when he motioned to his armpit to express how hairy they were. Whitney Wilkins was great at showing the two-sided stepmother, acting benevolent and kind one scene and then evil in the next. Both performers were so versatile that it was not until the show was over that I realized that the cast had so few actors.
Brinton Wilkins played the King, and my husband and I enjoyed his acting immensely. His giggly reactions to his own jokes and the way he interacted with the set and played with chess pieces like a child were lighteharted highlights. He also had a great whiny voice he used to complain when he was not getting his usual kingly treatment, like when the Prince demands he tries the glass slipper on every maiden. The King has some great lines, like when he just walks into a subjects house “I let myself in, you know, being King and all that.” As a result, Brinton Wilkins was very fun to see what he would do in each scene.
Though I enjoyed most of the casting, I was not so sure about the stepsisters, Grizzilla (played by Meighan Smith) and Eclaire (played by Madeline Thatcher). I thought they did well during most of the show, and especially liked their over-the-top obsession with self-care products, like bubble-bath. (Or as they put it, “BUBBLY BATHS!”) Near the end, I was concerned about the comedic timing for Thatcher, as she seemed to miss her cues for her last couple lines, which dampened the humor of some funny lines. The sincerity of her character lacked during that scene as well. Smith did a fine job as Grizzilla, and was perfectly evil to Cinderella, but she wasn’t quite the right shape, as La Plumba acts very excited to see Cinderella’s tiny waist and Smith was the same size or smaller.
Larissa Anderson played Cinderella with a typical innocent look, high voice, and helpless weeping of the old Disney movie character. However, in some ways her acting was in need of some depth. Anderson had a habit of shaking her head while speaking that was distracting. She looked beautiful in her ball gown and did justice to all the iconic moments of the fairy tale. I just wish she had given more to the audience, and helped us to see the person behind the name “Cinderella.”
Though the environment didn’t seem as welcoming as usual, I was grateful to have the chance to get out and see some theater. However, the ticket price is higher for what Utah audiences are accustomed to paying for a production for young audiences (perhaps because live theatre is so scarce nowadays). In normal times, Cinderella would have cost about $12 per ticket, but the admission was $10 higher. However, this is not a normal time, and I was happy to pay any extra to help the Parker Theater stay on its feet during this time of business stress and job losses. It was also more than worth it to get out, and wearing the masks were fine (except for my 4 year old who couldn’t keep hers on during the show). I feel so grateful for groups that are willing to continue showing amidst this pandemic, and hope that despite whatever pressures they face, the Parker Theatre remains strong. Thank you for giving us dramatic art!