A Parent’s Review: Cinderella at Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater
In all the years I’ve lived in the Seattle area (many, many), I’ve never been to the enchanting Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater – and this is the company’s 46th season. The venue itself is enough reason to see this summer’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and the show is also a lot of fun.
You drive through thick woods and alongside the bubbling Snoqualmie River to get to the gate to the 95-acre property, driving slowly through the easement road to a big meadow, parking and a shelter for the dinners served between shows. There’s a little playground in the meadow with an extra fast, short slide, a big hit with my 5-year-old companion. After picking up your tickets, you walk a short, well-maintained but fairly steep trail through towering trees, ferns, moss and native plants to the lower level amphitheater. Alternative transportation is available for those who cannot walk the trail.
Snacks are sold from a little log cabin with plants growing on the roof. An attendant in another cabin gives out free seat cushions and bug spray applications. The simple set with a few movable parts is set up in the bark in front of the bleachers with the forest as the backdrop.
This Cinderella follows the traditional storyline with the misused, pretty orphan girl, the mean stepmother and the two ugly stepsisters – dressed in an over-the-top fashion with funny wigs. They’re uglier for their constant bickering and put-downs of Cinderella than for their appearance. My friend, Taylor, looked at the husky fairy godmother in puzzlement, listened to the deep singing voice and finally said, “It’s a man! Isn’t that a man?” Indeed, following a British panto tradition, the fairy godmother in pink curly wig is played in drag, and he’s really funny. (British panto, short for “pantomime,” takes familiar fairy tales and children’s stories and inserts a bit of music hall vaudeville with a chorus and humorous characters.)
This Cinderella is more self-reliant than the girl in the old fairy tales. She takes matters into her own hands to sew up her mother’s old dress to go to the ball and is not shy about talking with a prince. Still, the fairy godmother helps out by exchanging pumpkins for a lighted coach pulled by two funny men dressed up as white horses. They appear from the curtain behind the set in a puff of smoke.
Another British panto touch is audience participation, and the cast could have employed more of this. Several children mentioned that their favorite part of the performance was when the prince and his stewards went through the audience trying on the glass slipper.
Most of the acting is average, although the godmother and female steward are really good. The stepmother nervously misses quite a few lines. Some weak singing, often drowned out by background music, is a bit of a drawback, but the worst point is the prince’s voice. I’m tone deaf, and it even sounded off to me, so I asked a musical expert next to me and she pronounced it “dreadful.” It’s a major distraction because he has so many songs.
Despite its few shortcomings, this cheerful show is a good bet for most kids 5 and older. It’s almost two hours, broken by an intermission, so you might take that into consideration if your children have shorter attention spans. On the other hand, it’s an informal setting, so wiggling isn’t a problem, and it’s easy to step out and walk around a bit if little ones get restless.
Be aware that the only bathroom facilities on the theater level are porta-potties and some children, including my friend, can’t bear to use them, even though they’re clean. There are full bathrooms on the upper level.
Wenda Reed is a Seattle area writer and theater-lover.
If You Go...
Where: 36800 David Powell Road, Fall City. Take Exit 22 from Interstate-90 eastbound, and drive north on the Preston-Fall City Road.
When: July 21 through Aug. 26, Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Barbecue dinners served between 4:30 and 5:15 p.m. all days.
Admission: Adults $18, seniors and students $16, children ages 6 to 12 $8, children 5 and younger free. BBQ tickets: Steak, salmon or chicken $18, vegetarian lasagna $14, children’s hot dogs $5.
Contact: 425-736-7252; www.foresttheater.org.