In ‘Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale,’ a classic gets a cultural twist at Imagination Stage

A silly and fun show for kids 5 and up about mutual respect and sportsmanship.

Imagination Stage presents Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale, with book and lyrics by Karen Zacarías and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma. Director Nadia Guevara gives the classic fairy tale a cultural twist with this production, resulting in a lively show about mutual respect and sportsmanship.

Cinderella (Alanna Sibrián) and Rosa (Ariana Caldwell) reconcile with a special handshake in ‘’Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale.’ © Photo by Margot Schulman.

Scenic Designer Matthew Keenan transforms the main stage into a typical school hallway, except for the fact that the wall seems to be breaking apart, with cement blocks suspended in the air at odd angles. It’s difficult to describe, but the visual effect is quirky and fun. Lighting Designer Christian D. Henrriquez and Sound Designer Delaney Bray use various effects to enhance the overall tone, alongside projections designed by Jerran Kowalski. The technical elements are professional and complement each other nicely.

Alanna Sibrán is Cinderella, a Spanish-speaking exchange student from Puerto Rico. She’s friendly, smart, and beautiful, much to the chagrin of her spoiled schoolmate and “host sister” Rosa (Ariana Caldwell), who is used to ruling the school and feels threatened by Cinderella’s presence. In another twist, we learn that the Fairy Godmother is away for a spa weekend, leaving her husband Padrino (Enrique Vargas) in charge of all things magical aid. In the number “Ya Vino El Padrino,” we learn that Padrino is inexperienced but optimistic. Due to a magical mishap (one of a few), Cinderella’s “ball” becomes a high-stakes basketball tryout, with Cinderella and Rosa competing against each other. Will Padrino be able to help Cinderella and Rosa see past their differences and insecurities?

Padrino (Enrique Vargas) celebrates with Rosa (Ariana Caldwell), Cinderella (Alanna Sibrián), and Joey (Tyrell Stanley) after getting his wings in ‘’Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale.’ © Photo by Margot Schulman.

The “Cinderella” plotline takes a lot of liberties — if you’re looking for a classic retelling, this isn’t it. However, the musical numbers (directed by Tiffany Underwood Holmes) are memorable and fun, particularly “Zapatos Magicos,” which showcases the lively style of Salsa, choreographed by Maurice Johnson. “Comparison Rap” is memorable in its own right, highlighting one of the main values of the show as Rosa asks “Do I dare compare red apples to green pears?” The actors all do a great job with their roles, but Tyrell Stanley steals every scene he’s in as Joey, Rosa’s enthusiastic friend who (quite literally) cheers both girls on throughout the show.

Multiculturalism is on the rise in children’s entertainment. One thing I learned about growing up in the DMV area is that we can take our cultural abundance for granted. I went to J.E.B. Stuart (since re-named Justice) High School, and was used to hearing about four or five different languages in the hallways in between classes. I remember going to college as a freshman and being taken aback by the fact that everyone on campus looked just like me, and when I recalled my culture shock to my mother, she had to remind me that the majority of our country wasn’t nearly as diverse as what I was used to. I appreciate that I grew up with so much cultural exposure, but not everyone is so lucky. I’m glad that shows like this are being produced as part of a bigger effort to help bridge the cultural gaps.

Imagination Stage’s Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale is silly and fun, but it also provides a good opportunity to start a meaningful conversation with your kids. If you’re looking for some culture — here it is.

Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.

Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale plays through April 7, 2024, at Imagination Stage – 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda, MD. Shows are on Saturdays and Sundays at 9:00 am, 10:30 am, and 12:00 pm. Tickets ($12 and up) may be purchased online, in person at Imagination Stage’s box office, or by phone at 301-280-1660. Group rates are available for parties of 10+.

Best for ages 5+

COVID Safety: masks are optional.

Cinderella: A Salsa Fairy Tale
Book and lyrics by Karen Zacarias
Music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Directed by Nadia Guevara


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