DANCE | Ballet of the Dolls step out with a stylish "Cinderfella"

I had the good fortune to see Cinderfella, a Ballet of the Dolls performance at the Ritz Theater last Thursday evening. Cinderfella was conceived, choreogrpahed, and directed by Myron Johnson.

The last Dolls show I saw was Whatever Happened to...Swan Lake?, and by the end of that show, I was feeling queasy from the well-acted cruelty shown on stage. Knowing that this play had the possibilty of also featuring evil family members, I went with some trepidation. It proved unwarranted. The performance was "ta'die for'a." And before I even start, let me give a "boa-off!" shout for the chorus (Rebecca Abroe, Alarica Hassett, Joy Langer, Cari Rils-Stemmler, and Valeris-Torres-Comvalius), who are stellar in dance, costume, attitude, and "morning-after-messy" mascara.

cinderfella, presented through december 26 at the ritz theater. for tickets ($24-$29) and information, see ritzdolls.com.

Act One opens in a mansion in Beverly Hills circa 1960. The program notes read "After the passing of his father, Fella (Grant Whittaker) is left win the care of his stepmother and her two sons. Treated like a servant, he used his colorful imagination to daydream...usually about girls! Mother discovers that Princess Charmine will be coming to Hollywood and plans a party to introduce her to her two eligible sons. Fellas is not invited. That may change!"

That's right. But add a sound track that blasts "Love Child," lounge-infused-disco cocktail music, and James Bond background music and you have yourself a non-speaking (except for the occasional shout of "Fella!!") play that keeps you rockin' while those step brothers (Robert Skafte and Bryan Gerber) are knockin'. As in knockin' down the house with jet-set after-bar parties and tennis dates with tequilas for two-plus. Stepmother (Michael deLeon) is a star in her own right throughout. You have to hate her, if not for her amazing, amazing, did-I-say-amazing? legs on heels alone. *sigh* Do you get my drift, here, sister? There's a whole lotta partying going on and it's only Fella who is doing the serving, clean-up, and morning-after coffee serving. Poor Fella!

The set design by Myron Johnson and set production by Doug Livesay is simple yet functional. Lighting design by Michael DeLeon and Doug Livesay add atmosphere and highlight details complete with some "retro" props (although there could have been more of those; I did not get my fill of sparkly vinyl, or atomic-inspired pieces). Set and lighting complement the über-groove music with simplicity and functionality. There's enough there to say "mansion" and offer dancing props. Being Ballet of the Dolls, you expect great dancing and you get it—be it via the Twist or a Tutu (that'd be the daydreaming part).

Act Two includes The Ball and The Transformation and a troupe of faux-Marilyns, Jackie-Oh-Ohs, and Dinah Shores in the chorus. Princess Charmine is played by Heather Brockman who, sans ball gown, plays a sassy Laura-Petrie-type diva who's just a little bit punky and a whole lot of rock-n-roll. Along with Fella, their smooth moves, finger snaps, and excellent foot work make for some great dancing numbers. How they use the grand staircase is particularly heady. Clearly, they hit it off on and off the dance floor, and thus the Princess takes on finding the owner of a go-go boot that's fallen off her mystery date as he heads out of the Ball at the midnight hour.

I honestly didn't know before I went to this performance that Cinderfella had been a 1960 movie starring Jerry Lewis. (I am not living that down easily.) So before writing this review I spent some time on YouTube watching clips and understanding where some of the inspiration came from for the set, the clothes, the music, and the dancing. Why this may be relevant is that regardless of age, or knowledge of pop culture, Cinderfella as performed by the Dolls is entertaining, delightful, way-sassy, and very fun for the audience. I recommend you get your best cocktail party attire on and go-go, maybe even throw on that platinum blonde wig you've been dying to try out. You'll be so jazzed after seeing this that you'll want to head out for a night of retro fun, and what better part of town to do it in than Northeast? But grab a cab, if that's how you roll, since I doubt any of us have a Fella to drive us around.

This production is featured in the Daily Planet's complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you'll know who's been naughty and who's been nice.
345 13th Ave. N.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55413
612-623-7660

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    betsygee7's picture
    Betsy Gabler

    Betsy Gabler is a full-time marketing manager for a local not-for-profit, a part-time graphic designer, and consults about small business social media and development strategies. She has a M.S. from the U of MN in visual communication and design. Being a supportive aunt is her favorite thing in life.