When Jackie Taylor and her Black Ensemble Theater originated “The Other Cinderella” 17 years ago, it was a fresh take on an overdone story. An African American Cinderella with an attitude and a mean step-mama who works at the post office offered just enough relevance and edge to make audiences fall in love with the story again. So how do you continue to keep an old story fresh? With new music, dances and pop culture references that make the current production of “The Other Cinderella” an irresistible hoot.
If you’ve never been to The Kingdom of Other, it’s similar to Cinderella’s original kingdom, except that “everybody has soul.” The opening scene introduces all the characters, including quite a few powerhouse singers: Rhonda Preston (a deliciously mean stepmother) who wrings every drop of emotion out of her tunes, Deja Taylor (a delightful Fairy God Mama with a bedazzled tote bag)) who supplies a credible Caribbean lilt for her reggae rhythms and Lawrence Williams (an engaging prince) who adds smooth crooning to the mix. Aside from the singing, the comic asides are worth seeing alone. The King (Trinity Murdock) arrives to the theme from “Shaft,” and when the stepmother finally tires of Cinderella’s (Candace Edwards) bad attitude, she whips off her wig and assumes “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” poses. Katrina Miller and Robin Beaman are also hilarious as the lazy and atrociously dressed stepsisters.
New characters are dropped into the story, including a page (Rueben Echols) with Michael Jackson moves who offers to facebook the ball invitations instead of sending telegrams and Dorothy (Christina Cain) a perky blonde from Kansas who earns her way into the Kingdom of Other by identifying three types of greens and belting “The White Girl Blues.” “The Other Cinderella” ups the ante on a tried and true story and creates two and half hours of non-stop fun.