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'Cinderella... After the Ball' puts a new twist on happy endings

Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 “Into the Woods” musical set a high bar of sophisticated irony regarding fairy tales’ not-so-happily-after events. Sondheim’s show questions what the characters’ thought they wanted.

However, “Cinderella: After the Ball,” a musical that opens with a somewhat disillusioned would-be princess, may arguably be more understandable to the grade-school crowd.

Now playing at Marriott Lincolnshire’s Theatre for Young Audiences through May 8, 2016, the villain is a mean-spirited Pinocchio who wants to take over the kingdom to eliminate good dreams and hopes because he doesn't believe in happy endings.

With book and lyrics by Eddie Sugarman and music by Jihwan Kim, the show’s multi-level messages will appeal to different age groups.

Pinocchio’s no-happy-endings song about all the bad things that happened later on to children’s story-book characters (pig that lost its house due to an unfavorable mortgage and rabbit who ended up in a stew) probably was caught by the adults, teens and preteens in the audience while it fortunately went over the heads of young children.

But when Cinderella pulls in Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and a spirited maid of all trades named Becky as cohorts to fight Pinocchio and save the kingdom, even young children can feel that everything will turn out all right. Although parents will probably be explaining that it was the females in the show who were the strong characters and not the prince.

As to the characters, there is a dragon that is so funny he shouldn’t scare the tots, a fairy godmother who is charming but also needs rescuing and a Sleeping Beauty whose overblown ego might remind the preteens and teens in the audience of a classmate or two. By the way, Cinderella makes a good point that dragons come in all guises.

Aside from the women who don’t need men to rescue them story-line, the best part of the show is the strong cast. Everyone in the show from Dara Cameron (Cinderella) who is also in Marriott's "Sister Act" to Devin DeSantis (The Prince) who was Tommy in Paramount's "The Who's Tommy," is a veteran of Chicago stages.