‘Cinderella: The Remix’ at Imagination Stage

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Imagination Stage presents Cinderella: The Remix, an exciting retelling of the classic written and directed by Psalmayene 24, with hip-hop beats by Nick Hernandez. The final production in Psalmayene 24’s  highly successful Hip-Hop Children’s Trilogy, this Remix is everything that a powerhouse children’s production should be– thrilling, fun, and with an inspirational message that pulses through the show like an electric current.

Paige Hernandez as Cinderella and Mark Hairston as Chocolate Ice. Photo by Margot Schulman.
Paige Hernandez as Cinderella and Mark Hairston as Chocolate Ice. Photo by Margot Schulman.

For Scenic Designer Ethan Sinnott, the details are in the backdrop. Leaving the stage itself bare for dance numbers, the multi-leveled set is framed by an urban city, using bold, modern cut-outs and TV screens that show video clips throughout the show, which lend a technical edge. Lighting Design by Zachary Gilbert and Projection Design by Tewodross Melchishua enhances the inner-city effect with projected graffiti and neon lights, and a variety of city sounds by Christopher Baine complete the atmosphere. Large prop pieces are rolled on and offstage throughout the show as well, individualizing each scene.

Paige Hernandez (Cinderella). Photo by  Margot Schulman.
Paige Hernandez (Cinderella). Photo by Margot Schulman.

Costume Designer Kendra Rai keeps in-step with the traditional hip-hop theme; bright, bold patterns and blingy accessories. However, a couple of characters get extra-special treatment (furry sidekick and glittery fairy godmother, I’m looking at you), and the effect is creative and fun.

Cinderella (Paige Hernandez) lives a restrictive life with her bitter stepmother Bad Ma’amajama (Giselle LeBleu Gant) and spoiled stepbrother Chocolate Ice (Mark Hairston). Her two joys are the company of her best friend Chin Chilla (Katy Carkuff), and her passion for mixing beats. However, in Hip-Hop Hollywood, girls are not allowed to DJ, and “frontin’” is a serious crime. When Hip-hop superstar J-Prince (Baye Harell) announces auditions for his “Jam,” Chin Chilla convinces Cinderella that her talent deserves recognition in the upbeat song “supafreshcrazyhotflybeautiful,” and they create her manly alter-ego, “DJ Sincere,” who rocks the house with his sweet jams. Their rouse is further bolstered by a visit from her Fairy Godmother, Hoperah (Giselle LeBleu Gant, in a hilarious, scene-stealing caricature of Oprah that will leave you chuckling for days). How long will the trio be able to keep up with this charade? Will Cinderella ever be able to DJ as her true self?

The actors work together in a seamless ensemble, and each one delivers a performance that is full of humor and enthusiasm. The standout star, for me , was Giselle LeBleu Gant, whose dual roles were performed with comedic genius. Group break dances, choreographed by Paige Hernandez, are also highly entertaining. There are many instances of audience interaction, including a dance-along scene and a cute moment when J Prince struts into the audience and takes selfies with the people, ala Ellen Degeneres at the Oscars. Poking some playful fun at popular culture was another great (and common) feature in this show, particularly for the adults.

Cinderella: The Remix is a hilarious and poignant show that you will enjoy just as much as your child. I had a fantastic time. This is a must-see!

Running Time: 90 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Cinderella: The Remix plays through May 25, 2014 at Imagination Stage-4908 Auburn Ave, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (301) 280-1660, or purchase them online.