CINDERELLA adapted by Malcolm Heenman and the company, directed by Jim Warren, with Jennifer Gould, Adam Brazier, Ross Petty, Don Harron, Erin Davis, Mary Ellen Mahoney, Cliff Saunders, Karen Skidmore and Jonathan Wilson. Presented by Petty at the Elgin (189 Yonge). Runs to December 30, Tuesday-Sunday, various 7 pm and matinees noon and 2 pm. $47-$67, child $37, family 4-pack $148. 416-872-5555. Rating: NN Rating: NN
A Ross Petty Christmas panto has become a holiday tradition in Toronto. Sometimes - like last year's Robin Hood - it's a fine piece of entertainment. This isn't one of those years. The key worry is the book, credited to Malcolm Heenman and the cast, which somehow turns Cinderella into a tedious, flat pancake of a tale, with occasional little nuggets of sugar and spice provided by the actors.
The characters live in Pumpkinville, where the main crop is dying out. You just know there's gonna be trouble for anyone seeking an orange gourd to turn into a coach. Baron Hardup ( Don Harron ), Cinderella's malaprop-spouting father, goes looking for germ-resistant seeds and returns with them as well as a new stepmother (Petty, complete with bride of Frankenstein hair) and bitchy stepsisters ( Mary Ellen Mahoney and Karen Skidmore ) for Cinderella ( Jennifer Gould ). In the nearby forest, the stepsisters confuse the shy prince ( Adam Brazier ) with his witty servant Dandini ( Jonathan Wilson ).
The usual fairy godmother/pumpkin/ball story has audience participation and local references worked in, of course, with the expected happy ending for all but the nasty characters.
While Brazier and Gould make a charming central couple, the kudos for director Jim Warren 's clown-inspired, swift-paced production go to the comic servants, Wilson and Cliff Saunders as Cinderella's pratfalling assistant Buttons. Their vaudeville routine in the second act is the best thing in the show, followed by a Price Is Right parody involving the glass slipper.
It's a shame, though, to waste the talents of Skidmore and Mahoney, who only get to mug a bit and sing a few verses of I Feel Pretty. Erin Davis sends herself up nicely as the fairy godmother, and the chorus energetically performs Tracey Flye 's choreography.
What the show needs, though, is some real storytelling magic. Davis's wand can't manage that, no matter how much stage pyrotechnics it produces.