Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Robi Polgar, Fri., July 12, 2002
Cyberella: Listen to the Kid
Reagan High School Performing Arts Center,
through July 14
Running time: 2 hrs, 30 min
I've noticed a pattern emerging in my daughter Ari's assessments of the shows she's seen lately. "This was the best show ever," she gushes, all smiles and enthusiasm for this kidsActing presentation. Ari is 6, mind you, so she still ain't seen it all, as have some jaded reviewers (cough). On the other hand, her critical eye is not uninformed: After pointing out the fly house of the Reagan High School theatre, Ari was quick to point out that when bits of scenery flew up and out of sight they were heading into the flies. So when this knowledgeable and impressionable youngster offers her opinions on the show, they're worth hearing. And, yes, she is right: This show -- an updated take on Cinderella for the modem set -- boasts a playful script, and the cast really does well to strut its stuff while clearly having fun doing it.
So who were Ari's favorite performers? Well, Christie Little as the titular Cyberella, naturally. Why? "I liked her singing." Point taken. Little (who alternates the role with Kylee Long) can sing quite well, sometimes with a cool, bluesy sound. I think Ari also liked her ball dress. Miss Twist, played by Shae Boyd, was another fave. Boyd plays the scheming secretarial character with more than just a twist of Machiavellian mischief, and, as Ari points out, she can sing, too. Topping the list of favorites, however, is Caitlin Garner as the wicked Elle Virus, a cyber-world character with cyberpunk minions infecting software and destroying hard drives the world over. Garner delivers one of the best songs in the show, "Crash," which is what Elle Virus and her lot do to the computers of the world, in this case severing the e-connection between poor Cyberella and her prince charming. I suspect Elle Virus' costume, black and shimmery with strewn colors and wings recalling a bird of prey, might also have swayed our young reviewer.
"The songs," says Ari were really good too, and she was rapt for each. Besides the high energy, often excellent singing and dancing of the cast, the folks behind the music are a veritable who's who of local singer-songwriters, including members of the Austin Lounge Lizards, Robert Skiles ("Beto" of Beto y Los Fairlanes), Tish Hinojosa, and more. In her enthusiasm to pick her standout moments, Ari forgot to mention how enjoyable the wicked stepfamily is, as they lord over poor Cyberella. Ima Slobb (Kate Miranda) and her daughters Izza (Emma Haining), Whattamaya (Andrea Cody), and Lacy (Lizzie Lowe) provide heaps of humor throughout, and Mother Ima's entrance at the grand ball receives a deserved ovation. There are also a few boys in this production. Michael Evans plays the Prince (alternating with John Jeffords), torn between his love for Cyberella and his duty to marry some rich bimbo in order to save the kingdom of Begonia from financial ruin. He's tall and handsome, as a prince should be, and sings a lovely duet with Little, "Flying," as well as his own wistful "Cyberella." As King Dandelion, Matt Johnston (who alternates with Clint Gilfillan) is a regal yet daft monarch, but one possessed with a strong voice.
It's no wonder Ari liked the songs so much. The kids really come through song after song, and the production values of the whole musical are topnotch, especially the costumes. And then, of course, there are the dancing mice.