The Puppet Co. Theatre’s version of Cinderella has all of the classic elements of the beloved fairytale, but in typical Puppet Co. Theatre fashion there are several twists that make the story uniquely its own.
In the Puppet Co.’s version, Ella is a down-to-earth girl living in France’s countryside. Although she has no mother and her father frequently travels, she happily spends her days with Prince Charming the cat. All of that changes, when her father returns home from a trip with a new stepmother and two evil stepsisters. The three new residents of her home expect Ella to wait on them hand and foot because the estate does not employ any servants. They even change her name to Cinderella because of the dirty cinders she uses in the kitchen. Cinderella does her best to please the new women in the house, but it is never enough.
One day a handsome man wanders into the house’s kitchen, which Cinderella is cleaning. Although dressed like a beggar, the man is actually the Prince who got lost on a walk through the woods. Not knowing his true identity, Cinderella is nevertheless kind to the man even though her stepsisters make fun of him because of his shabby clothes. The Prince thinks Cinderella has discovered his true identity when he hears her calling Prince Charming, but quickly realizes to his delight that she is actually calling her cat and his secret is safe. Smitten, the Prince makes Cinderella promise that she will attend the Royal Ball being held later that night. Cinderella is able to find a gown to wear, but her stepmother destroys it. As in the classic tale, a Fairy Godmother appears to give Cinderella not just a new gown, but also a carriage, a horse, and a horseman. Still believing she is going to the ball to meet a man of modest means, Cinderella tells the King and Queen that she must decline their overtures that she marry the Prince because she is in love with another. Cinderella easily spots the Prince at the ball because he is still dressed like a beggar, but the Prince does not recognize Cinderella because she is dressed like a Lady. Nevertheless, the Prince falls in love with her all over again.
As in the original story, Cinderella flees the ball at midnight leaving her glass slipper behind. Upon returning home, Cinderella gains the confidence she had been lacking. She finally stands up to her Stepmother and tells her that she wants to be called by her original name of Ella. When the Prince inevitably arrives to see if the glass slipper fits Cinderella, we see the stepsisters’ comically large feet and sigh with relief when Ella and the Prince finally declare their love for one another.
The story is very sweet and my husband said it was his favorite of all the Puppet Co. Theatre shows our family has attended. Backdrops for the show change seamlessly from the rolling hills of France, to the kitchen where Cinderella toils, to the Royal Palace. The show injects some magic when, with a little bit of smoke, Cinderella is given a lovely new dress, a pumpkin is changed into a carriage, and Prince Charming the Cat is changed into a horseman. My children were transfixed by these changes. Throughout the show, children are shown that it is ugly to be mean, the importance of being kind to everyone, that you should not judge people based upon their appearance and that it is alright to stand up to bullies.
Cinderella is recommended for grades K to 6. My two and half year old daughter and five year old son enjoyed the performance equally. At the show I attended, there were several girls wearing crowns, one Prince, and at least one Cinderella in the audience so feel free to don your royal attire to add to the fun.
If you go, The Puppet Co. Playhouse is located in Glen Echo Park. Cinderella plays on Thursdays and Fridays at 10:00 and 11:30am and Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30am and 1:00pm and runs through June 9th. There is an ASL-interpreted show on May 19th. The show runs approximately 45 minutes, making it manageable for families that include young children. Tickets are $10.00 for everyone two and up. There are discounts for group sales and a trip to the Puppet Co. makes a great outing for a playgroup. Tickets can be purchased by online with no ticketing fees, by calling (301) 634-5380, or at the box office. For procrastinators, be aware that online ticket sales end one hour and fifteen minutes before show time.
There is plenty of free parking at Glen Echo, but be sure to allot five to ten minutes to walk from the parking lot to the theatre. The path from the parking lot to the theater is completely flat and stroller-friendly. There is a designated place to leave strollers just outside the theatre door. Doors open fifteen minutes before the show begins. Seating is general admission with seating for children available on the floor and some benches available for adults in the back and along the perimeter where children are allowed to sit on grown-ups laps. There is limited space available for caregivers to sit with children on the floor near the front so if you want to sit with your child you should plan on arriving early to be among the first admitted to the theatre. Plenty of space for caregivers to sit with children is available in the back.
There are two live feed monitors in the lobby so you will not miss any of the show if you need to step out with your child for a moment. Cinderella in her kitchen clothes and her puppeteer greet patrons as they exit the theatre and are available for photos.
If you see Cinderella on a nice day be sure to take advantage of Glen Echo’s playground before or after the show.
See Cinderella before the clock strikes midnight!
Photos by Christopher Piper.