Tea Partiers and fairy tale traditionalists beware: At this year’s Fringe Fest, the Philadelphia Performance Project presents a Cinderella who wants a seat on the king’s cabinet, a gold-hearted fairy godfather who’s also a wine-guzzling gangster, and a Prince Charming who wants to share the royal wealth with the anti-feudal “occupiers” camped outside the palace.
Springfield Township resident Mickey Leone is the composer/lyricist and executive producer of PPP’s “If the Slipper Fits,” running at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill through the weekend. Chatting with NewsWorks after the Thursday night premiere, Leone said this revamped Cinderella story is “a natural” for the “Occupy” theme.
A twist on a classic fairy tale
“The class thing is in the original story,” he said, explaining that his inspiration to revamp the story in favor of the “99 percent” was due in part to his own daughter’s involvement with the original Occupy movement in New York City, adding that she was in Zucotti Park the first night of the movement.
“If the Slipper Fits,” performed in the church hall, opens in a rather timeless setting: The kingdom is getting ready for its Jubilee, a three-day celebration that happens once every 40 years. Once upon a time, the Jubilee was a time for the crown to release prisoners, forgive debts and party with the villagers. But now it’s a ritzy gala exclusively for the very rich, who have been raising taxes on the uninvited commoners so the palace can afford the festivities.
“This system is really starting to stink,” the Occupy chorus sings. “We gotta do…something.”
A local singer named Lisa DeChristofaro lends a beautiful voice to the principal maiden, known to her friends as Cindy. The home she shares with her stepmother and stepsisters (Susan Blair, Adrianna Marino and Kiera Mersky) isn’t an acrimonious one. The stepsisters are just a little distracted by their tap-dancing career.
When they leave Cindy to wash the windows during the Jubilee Ball, an impatient yet theatrical Fairy Godmother (Trudy Graboyes) pays a visit. “You’ve gotta understand, I’ve got other clients,” she sings. But the plot really thickens when a Fairy Godfather and his lackey, Rob, show up in dark suits and posh vests with a little proposition for Cinderella. They have their own reasons for crashing the ball.
Posing as the Countess Von Wiggandbottom, Cinderella charms her way through the palace, but instead of losing her shoe, she hurls it at Rob’s angry pursuers (good thing it’s not actually made of glass). When it’s time for the besotted Prince Charles (Nick Picknally) to put her shoe back on, it’s more of a fairy-tale fingerprinting than a moment of true love.
Cindy finds herself in an unfortunate love triangle that never made the original story, caught between an amorous prince and a would-be gangster with a Robin Hood complex. The musical (almost) ends in a marriage proposal.
“Share the riches equally…Heal the kingdom for you and me,” the Prince sings, once Cindy and her Occupier pals help him see the light.
A chat with the ensemble
“He’s kind of a piece of crap,” Picknally said of the Prince’s entitled persona in the show’s first act. But he becomes a wiser ruler by the time the Jubilee is over. “He does it not really because of Cinderella, but she helps him find his way,” he explained.
“Slipper” is a unique production because it was still under construction when the cast was assembled last June. Since it was such a collaborative world premiere, the actors had a chance to help shape their characters.”It’s what made it hard and what made it wonderful at the same time,” Producer Angela Bleemer said of developing the brand-new show while rehearsals were already underway.
“The show had to come up to be worthy of the talent,” Leone said, praising his cast and the band, who came from throughout the city to participate.
“If the Slipper Fits,” directed by Tom Kerrigan, is presented by the Philadelphia Performance Project as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 22 E. Chestnut Hill Avenue. Performances are Friday and Saturday night (Sept. 20 and 21) at 7 p.m. (note change in time from 7:30 p.m. in the Fringe catalog). Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, visit the FringeArts website.