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[whitespace] Elisabeth Cernandas, Lori Rivera Shoe In: Elisabeth Cernandas as Cinderella (left) and Lori Rivera as the Fairy Godmother appear in Shakespeare Santa Cruz's tale of love, family and good footwear.

Sole Sister

Shakespeare Santa Cruz's 'Cinderella' proves that with a true heart, non-trust-fund kids end up with the best friends, the truest love--and the coolest shoes

By Mary Spicuzza

ONCE UPON A TIME, a performance of Cinderella at UC-Santa Cruz would have drawn a storm of protest from rallying battalions of feminist activists. Fairy tales about waiting for Prince Charming and catty women clawing at each other over the perfect man typically were required reading in women's studies courses. And I think the politically correct crowd must see Cinderella as the root of decades of anti-stepmother oppression.

But Shakespeare Santa Cruz artistic director Paul Whitworth says that things have been all quiet on the protest front as the company prepares for its 1999 holiday production, the world premiere of the musical Cinderella: A New Telling of an Old Tale.

"One of the qualities about great drama or great folk tales is that they are great works of the imagination. They are like dreams; they have a shape and an impact that speak to people," Whitworth says. "I like to let it speak for itself, not shape it into a lesson or moral."

Rather than delve into the politics of poor Cinderella and her spoiled, suburbanite stepsisters, Shakespeare Santa Cruz chooses to focus on the magic of this centuries-old fairy tale. Besides telling the story of a hard-working girl who doesn't lose sight of her dreams--even in the face of filthy fireplaces and horrendous housemates--Whitworth promises to explore the reason that the tale is so timeless.

"It speaks about personal integrity and having a true heart," Whitworth says.

Managing director Paul Hammond explains that Shakespeare Santa Cruz's version of the story, written by Kate Hawley (who adapted The Forest for 1998's summer season), features plot twists and special surprises. But even without a new, hipper storyline, who can resist a tale brimming with divine intervention and karmic consequences for the evil?

Of course I love to see goodness glow and virtue win, but the Dynasty lover in me also relishes the thought of evil stepmother and stepsisters--all timeless poster girls for those spoiled beyond the core--eventually tossed out of righteous Cinderella's kingdom. Audiences can rest assured that shy but soulful Cinderella, in her own sweet way, will kick butt with the help of her fairy-godmother mentor and a strong support network of creative animals and charmed vegetables.

Gregg Coffin's lyrics should also add an entirely new dimension to the tale. Especially with lines like "Oh, it feels just like opening night/And the Prince is playing the lead/It's simply enchanting/The girls are all panting/It's practically a stampede."

Before the feminist deconstruction begins, I can only recommend looking to the posters. Of course, they feature Cinderella in her ball-gown glory dancing with the man of her dreams. But the proper emphasis is on the footwear, highlighting every delicious curve, charting the sole plate and diagramming the heel bore of the mythical glass slipper. Shining in simple silver-and-gold beauty, the practical diagram of Cinderella's fantasy shoe proves that a working girl can walk a balance of truth, love and happiness ever after--but only with the proper pumps.

Cinderella: A New Telling of an Old Tale opens at 6pm Saturday (Nov. 26) and runs at 1 and 6pm Sunday (Nov. 28) and Dec. 4-5, 11 and 12, and at 7pm Dec. 2-3, 8, 9 and 10. Mainstage, Theater Arts Center, UCSC. Preview runs at 7pm Friday (Nov. 25). Tickets are $10-$24. (459.2159)

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From the November 24-December 1, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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