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CINDERELLA at New Phoenix is pure comic joy for all ages, 8 to 80.

THE BASICS: CINDERELLA, conceived and directed by Kelli Bocock-Natale, runs through December 16, Thursday through Saturday at 8, plus December 9 & 16 at 3 (Thursdays are “pay what you can”) at the New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson Park off Elmwood. (853-1334) www.newphoenixtheatre.org. Beer, wine, soda available. Runtime: a touch over two hours including one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: The story’s familiar, with a few minor additions, about the girl whose life is made hell by her stepmother and two stepsisters; gets to go to the castle ball in attire and livery provided by her fairy godmother, but must leave at the stroke of midnight when the magic runs out, leaving a glass slipper which the prince uses to find his future bride and princess. What’s delightful here are the characterizations by some of Buffalos most talented actors.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: CINDERELLA has stars who play straight roles – Jamie Nablo in the title role; Alejandro Gomez as the kind and sensitive Prince, and Daniel Williams as his super-serious Captain. This is all contrasted with the unholy trio of Eric Rawski, Sean Murphy, and Michael Wachowiak as the stepmother and two sisters. Hoo boy! You ain’t seen nothin’ like this before. And, right there in the thick of comic acting, Ray Boucher, Caitlin Coleman, and Jeremy Kreuzer perform a variety of utility roles with great humor. I hope the performers enjoyed themselves as much as the packed Thursday house did.

I hope the performers enjoyed themselves as much as the packed Thursday house did.

Perhaps one secret to the success is direction and conception by Kelli Bocock-Natale, whose mind is a wonderful source of magic, but also the fact that the show was adapted by the company. It was obvious that a lot of the shtick played to each actor/actress’ strengths. Speaking of Bocock-Natale, her costumes for the sisters were hilarious, right down to the sneakers, and for others fit their roles, but, a little theater magic, I got teared up when Nablo left the stage in rags and greasy hair and returned moments later in a blue gown that sparkled and wavy locks right out of a TRESemmé ad.

Kudos to Daniel Williams, a graduate of the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, for music and an original song which he accompanied on the piano. And, as stage manager (an unsung hero in most productions) Tara Rowe Foreman certainly had her hands full with the quick costume changes. But there was never one second of awkwardness, although there was some clever ad-libbing when at one point Cinderella’s shoe flew off into the lap of a front row audience member.

This is a rare bird, a play that truly can delight 8 to 80. And for those who are either 8 or 80 or close to it, take advantage of the two Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. (December 9 and 16). For everybody, you know the story and the ending, so relax and laugh and enjoy yourself.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how “it” all works. For Classical 94.5 WNED and on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society he’s conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists to get at answers. On “Theater Talk” his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply “What’s goin’ on?” In every situation he’s in Peter wonders: “What’s the big picture here?” And, “if I had to teach this, how would I break it down to explain it?”

That’s why he loves writing reviews. A show with a strong message that makes him laugh and cry and think about life is a good show. Heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM “Theater Talk” repeats Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED, the radio station where Peter is currently the afternoon drive host as well as producer and host of “Buffalo Philharmonic Live” (Sundays at 5 p.m. repeating Fridays at 10 p.m. on WNED). For the Buffalo Chamber Music Society he moderates on-stage pre-concert chats with the artists and is on-stage host of the Falletta (classical guitar) Competition.

Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business. He is currently a member of the “Artie Awards Committee.”

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