COURTESY ERIK TOMASSONMaria Kochetkova dances in the title role with Joan Boada as the prince in San Francisco Ballet’s magical “Cinderella.”

Sassy, spirited ‘Cinderella’

The African-American Shakespeare Company’s seasonal production of “Cinderella” is back — full of glittering, glorious wonder for holiday audiences of all ages.

Parents whose daughters have memorized Disney’s version should take them to see this production, and soon. This Cinderella is a scullery maid who knows her own mind. She’s excited about the ball, but not because she’s got her eye on the throne.

“I’ve come to meet my very own prince — whether his father is king or not,” she declares.

There are five shows between now and Dec. 22 at the Buriel Clay Theater in San Francisco. The production is directed by L. Peter Callender, artistic director for the company.

It’s a strong cast, but the show stealers are the Evil Stepmother, played by Clara McDaniel, and her daughters Zonita and Shaniqua, played by Twon Marcel and B. Chico Pudiman, respectively.

McDaniel, whose voice and presence brings to mind Shirley Bassey, is deliciously evil. When she belts out “I’m a bad mama,” it’s clear she means it.

Marcel and Pudiman are very funny guys. Strapped into their party dresses and slathered with rouge, they play the stepsisters to the hilt. When the Duke arrives at their home looking for the maiden whose foot fits the slipper, Shaniqua brushes her sister away. “Don’t even try,” she thunders. “I got this.”

Rounding out the cast is Kimille Stingily, who shines as Cinderella. It’s a bit disappointing that her transformation from maid to mademoiselle occurs offstage, but the audience is rewarded by other clever touches.

When the Fairy Godmother (the wonderful Monica Capuccini) admits there are only three mice, she blames the budget.

The theater is an intimate venue, cozy enough so that the Duke has time to venture into the audience to test the slipper on a little girl.

Kids will enjoy watching the child actors, especially Caden Cotton-Blake (who excelled as the page this past weekend). The show includes fresh and original songs by Angel Burgess with lyrics by Robert Michael Moreno.

Prince Charming, played by Dedrick Weathersby, is a stronger actor than a singer. When he flashes his dazzling smile and professes his love, it’s clear he wants a soulmate.

What more could a princess want?

REVIEW

Cinderella

Where: Buriel Clay Theater, African-American Shakespeare Company, 762 Fulton St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 22, 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 21

Tickets: $12.50 to $37.50

Contact: (415) 762-2071, www.brownpapertickets.com, African-AmericanShakes.orgAfrican-American Shakespeare CompanyartsCinderellaL. Peter Callender

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