The fairy tale of “Cinderella” adapts awfully well to the amplified cheesiness of British panto. The version created years ago at Shakespeare Santa Cruz by Paul Whitworth, Kate Hawley and Gregg Coffin has many charms that have solidified it as a holiday alternative for Sacramento Theatre Company. Pantos thrive on an air of anarchic comedy with audience participation (there was plenty) and playful innuendo (not so much), but director Michael Laun’s often-plodding middle-of-the-road production still managed to entertain.
The biggest boost comes from Michael RJ Campbell’s winning turn as Mrs. Baden-Rotten, Cinderella’s evil stepmother in this telling of the story. Campbell gets the looseness of panto and keeps a winking eye on the proceedings. Cross-dressing is a big part of panto’s comedic appeal, but Campbell is the only participant here, which may be why the production feels so staid. In the past Mrs. Baden- Rotten’s daughters have been played by men as well. While the standout Emily Serdahl as Goneril and the fine Brandi Lucy as Regan liven things up, it’s not quite the same. Andrea St. Clair and Michael Coleman as the Queen and King also had plenty of panto tongue-in-cheek spirit.
The story keeps to the bare bones of the familiar yarn with the virtuous downtrodden maid Cinderella, Emiliy O’Flaherty in the show I saw (Madeline Perez also plays the role at some performances), being kept as a scullery maid by her oppressive stepmother. Here Cinderella has a male besty in the tap-dancing Buttons (Ryan Blanning) and a Good Fairy (Miranda D. Lawson) looking out for her.
On hand also are a reluctant Prince Charming (Sam C. Jones), his bro pal Dandini (Brian Bohlender), and Cinderella’s dad, the hapless Baron Hardup (excellent Greg Koski). Jerald Bolden shows serious chops as a tap-dancing bear and Samuel Clein leads a fine live quintet.
The production was plagued by intermittent sound problems throughout, but the audience’s enjoyment was unimpaired.
What: The Shakespeare Santa Cruz panto version of the fairytale with book and lyrics by Kate Hawley, music by Gregg Coffin, from an original concept by Paul Whitworth. Michael Laun directs and Samuel Clein leads a live band.
Where: Sacramento Theatre Company, Main Stage, 1419 H St., Sacramento
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays through Jan. 1. The final two weeks of “Cinderella” performances may not follow the published schedule. Check for an updated schedule.
Information: 916-443-6722; www.sactheatre.org
Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission.