“Cinderfella” by Ballet of the Dolls at the Ritz Theater

"Fella" (Grant Whittaker) dreams about a better life - and pretty girls in "Cinderfella." Photo credit: Stephanie Colgan.

Ballet of the Dolls has just opened its holiday offering at the Ritz Theater and it’s an absolute charmer. Conceived, choreographed and directed by Myron Johnson, who also designed the set, Cinderfella is a fresh take on the Cinderella story, as you might guess, with a self-absorbed stepmother (Michael deLeon) and her two spoiled sons (Robert Skafte and Bryan Gerber) ordering the poor stepson around. Meanwhile, “Fella” (Grant Whittaker) comforts himself with daydreams about pretty girls.

Set in 1960s-era Beverly Hills, our hapless hero serves his stepfamily drinks from a rolling cart, moving with an indomitable spring in his step and wearing a dreadful plaid vintage jacket. His sunny countenance alone is the sure giveaway that this is the guy we’re supposed to like, rather than the sleazes in designer tuxes.

And the dancing! Beyond being capable, it showed a lot of personality with easy segues around a super-hip mix of 60’s appropriate music: The Supremes, the Godfather Waltz, a kitchy mambo, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson and Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, “When You Wish Upon a Star” – it all worked. Nothing spectacular or flashy – just effortless execution of gently nuanced looks, turns and crosses – from floating down an enormous staircase, to lighting the sons’ ubiquitous cigarettes.

In a perfectly plausible twist, it’s the stepmother who throws the party for the visiting Princess Charmine (Heather Brockman), who as a Hollywood outsider, is more intrigued by the mystery man at the ball, (who makes a brief appearance and a quick exit, leaving his silver boot behind) than the preening sons. Brockman’s silky smooth dancing epitomizes everything that is so smart about this show.

But the real beauty of it is how everything works together. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a show that blends all the details – concept, choreography, costumes, story, music, set, lights –  in such a magical whole.  This show is a little jewel. Yes, you can take your grandma and your kids – and you should.

Cinderfella runs through December 26.

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