CINDY & THE DISCO BALL
For my review of this very cute, kid-friendly, Cinderella-based new musical, Cindy & The Disco Ball, at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, I was aided by not just the opinion of my grown-up pal, Laura, but also those of my newest Junior Reviewer, nine-year-old Lula. And I’m so glad that Lula joined us because at this past Saturday afternoon’s show, there were a lot of kids, who all seemed to love it as much as she did!
Actually, we all loved it! There was a senior couple next to me, without children, and they were very vocal in their admiration. The woman even enjoyed a lollipop during the second half, as if she were a kid herself! I think that’s what this show brings out in everyone.
This was the first time Laura and Lula had been to the Garry Marshall, and they loved it almost as much as they did the show! It’s such a comfortable theatre. The sightlines are perfect from every seat, and there’s enough space between patrons, while at the same time, you feel you’re all in it together, so much more than at any other venue.
Another bonus is that the visuals hit you right away, as you enter and find your seats. Lula’s already begging her mother for every single set decoration she noticed that day. I had been up literally overnight, and therefore was totally dragging when we got to the theatre, but the second I saw Tom Wagman’s wonderfully-colorful set, I perked right up. (Wait—how did a male choose every item we girly-girls love?! Two big parts of the backdrop even look like my much-loved cell phone case!)
As soon as the show began, with a number by vocal powerhouse Malynda Hale (who plays the Fairy Godmother character, Soul Sister,) I forgot all about my own worries. She is, by far, the best singer in the group, but the rest of the attractive five-person cast–Jasiana Caraballo, Abigail Kate Thomas, Christopher De’Vonte Baker, and (according to Laura) Timothee Chalamet look-alike Hayden Kharrazi, all relative newcomers to the biz–sell their numbers, as well.
I also appreciate that the band is shown behind a curtain on stage right near the top of the action so we don’t have to wonder from whence the live music is coming the whole time. (Or is that just me?)
Cindy & The Disco Ball is based on Cinderella, but it takes place at an LA high school in 1976. (Hence—the disco ball in the title.) That setting makes it perfect for costumes, the set, and all kinds of semi-corny jokes that the adults really get a kick out of.
Even though the script is kind-of simplistic, (which makes it perfect for children,) I found my own semi-grown-up self laughing, a lot. I could pick apart little bits of the story, but why bother? This is one of those occasions where you just have to go with the flow. And are happy to do so.
I got a kick out of that Jasiana Caraballo, who plays Cindy, is so cute and petite because that made the kids in the audience relate to her even more.
But sadly for me, I identified more with the obnoxious (as opposed to “wicked” in most versions of the fairy tale,) stepsister, Eleanor. (But without the meanness, of course.) So I especially loved her signature song, entitled my favorite word—Fabulous! It had so many cute touches, like her on-rhythm gum-chewing. That number really is fabulous, in every way. (Thanks to composers Joseph Leo Bwarie, Lori Marshall, and Rachael Lawrence for all the music.)
You’re going to have to see the show for yourselves to hear all the clever lines, but this one could have been uttered by my own sister, (who never even had the excuse of being a stepsister): Cindy: “Why are you always so mean to me?” Stepsister: “Let me think—because I’m good at it!”
And as to the costumes by Jessica Champagne-Hansen, I almost hate to admit it, but when I was a kid in Brooklyn, I had a one-piece pajama outfit in the exact pattern as Soul Sister’s outfit, (the sleeves on which keep changing, so keep an eye out for that.) I thought it was so glamorous!
Now here are some of Lula’s thoughts on it all. She told me, “I think it’s really fascinating how they can change the outfits really fast.”
My mature little pal also said, “The sound is really good,” (how does a nine-year-old notice these things???,) and she pointed-out that the “timing” of the sound cues is “perfect.” Wow. She is correct about that, but even I didn’t notice it until she mentioned it!
Her fave character was Buddy, played by Christopher De’Vonte Baker, especially because he kept saying, “People shouldn’t take pictures of themselves!” (Remember, this takes place in 1977. But we still shouldn’t, at least not as often as we all do!)
And Lula joined me in loving the costumes and the “colors of the set,” which Laura deemed “fantastic.”
Cindy & The Disco Ball is just an overall fun production. It’s for everyone who wants to have a couple of hours of fun and laughter.
However, I do have two small issues with it. One is that towards the end of the show, Cindy says, “Me and Tommy…” about something, rather than the correct, “Tommy and I…” That needs to be fixed pronto because it’s such a terrible example for children. The rest of the show is perfect for children, so I really hope they change that one very incorrect sentence in the script. Syntaxes such as this one used to be in the media only to denote a less-intelligent person, but nowadays, no one knows how to speak anymore because of all the bad examples they’ve heard in recent years. And, to apply that to this musical, I don’t think people were as illiterate back in the ’70s as they are now. [Note: There’s such a teacher shortage these days that in private schools, not only are teaching degrees not required, but many teachers aren’t even college graduates!]
On a more serious note, I also wish the script would explain the absence of the parents a bit more gently. Stepsisters can be mean even when parents are still alive. In this case, I think it would be easier for the children in the audience if the narrative was simply that Cindy’s parents are divorced and remarried. To compare, Disney is notorious for horrifying children with the main characters’ deceased parents, (Bambi, The Lion King, etc.,) but at least those deaths feel somewhat removed because they’re in animation and on a screen. Cindy & The Disco Ball is a live show, with the kids very close to the action, especially in such a wonderfully intimate space.
I actually noticed some children hugging their parents every time Cindy mentioned that her mother had died. (I counted at least three instances in the script. But hopefully they’ll eliminate those extra ones before you see it.) I know that real (but fictional) Cinderella says her mother is dead in every story or production, but it’s always just once at the beginning and never again. And the characters are always in fantasy attire, not reality clothing, as the ones in this show are, so perhaps those scenarios are a bit easier on the audiences.
Okay, those two issues for me are perhaps because I was an elementary school teacher, so I’m always sensitive to what children may be feeling. And I want people to be properly educated.
But even with those two small observations, I highly recommend Cindy & The Disco Ball to both children and grown-ups alike. And especially to people like me, who are a bit of both!
And on your way in to the Garry Marshall, make sure not to miss the photo op outside, in front of the big sign for the show–Laura pointed-out that it features shag carpet, which I understand was big in 1977. So the fun starts even before you set foot inside!
Cindy & The Disco Ball running through October 30, 2022
Garry Marshall Theatre 4252 West Riverside Drive, Burbank