Feminists have argued against these versions that put forward a passive female who places her value as a person in her beauty and, rather than standing up for herself, relies on this beauty to prompt a testosterone fueled rescue.
A more Marxist approach suggests Cinderella as part of an exploited, rebellious proletariat kept in place by a marionetted ruler to ensure compliance. Class structure or monetary worth maintain the divide between the rich and the poor keeping those with the power in control. The best the common people can hope for is the unlikely scenario that somehow, someone in a position of power has the wherewithal to listen, understand what is happening, and stand up for those less fortunate.
Beane’s adaptation suggests a little of both.
The show gets off to a relatively slow start with a hero-establishing battle scene between prince Topher and a forest creature that looks more like a giant preying mantis than a frightful dragon. Once prince Topher returns to the castle he is told he must wed and so a ball is staged with only the richest women invited.
Cinderella is magically transformed and goes to the ball and wins the prince’s heart.
Here is where the story deviates from the Disney version with which we are so familiar.
She tells the smitten prince that his people are being evicted from their land and need his help. “If you have a dream you must fight for it,” we hear. When, with a nicely staged metaphorical gesture, Cinderella trips and drops her shoe, she bends down, scoops it up, and races away.
The prince hears and understands Cinderella’s message and stages a banquet where they might meet again. Prince Topher’s handlers attempt to maintain the divide between the classes, yet the prince prevails and meets his people.
Beane’s rendition of the tale gives the viewer plenty of food for thought and changes up a lot of the old stereotypes, but one thing that surprisingly does endure, even in a modern interpretation such as this, is the notion that beauty seals the deal. After all is said and done, the people saved, a people’s government formed, the prince still marvels at Cinderella’s beauty as her greatest and most prominent asset. Somehow this remains the reason for her success and how she managed to get him to listen to her in the first place. He does not care that his people have lost their homes, only that she is beautiful and that she cares that his people have lost their homes.
This show is spectacular in many ways: the singing, the costumes and set design, and eye-popping metamorphoses. And huge kudos for changing the story up enough to make us think a little more about the bigger picture. Having said that, it would have been that much greater if the writers had been just a little bolder in their choices and managed to inspire in us the notion that standing up for what is just and fair, because it is the right thing to do, regardless of beauty or wealth, can be a means of making the fairy tale of equality come true.
Cinderella is at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver BC click HERE for a link to tickets.