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by Rebecca M. Alvin
Dick Morrill, Sam Wood, and Deborah Magee in The Magic Cloak by Stephen Russell
Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer

Girls really just want to have fun, am I right? Well, in the Grimms’ fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, that is certainly the case. Night after night, the king’s 12 daughters dance so much that their shoes are worn through and their father has to replace them again in the morning. But the king doesn’t know it is from dancing. He doesn’t know what’s going on at all. And so, he puts out a challenge to his kingdom: anyone who can discover what’s happening to his daughters’ shoes every night, within three days and nights, may marry one of his beautiful daughters. A soldier takes on the challenge after a mysterious woman gives him a magic cloak that makes him invisible.

That story is the basis for Stephen Russell’s latest WHATforKids production, The Magic Cloak. But, of course, in his hands, the story takes on a satirical tone, with many references to modern-day politics in America mixing with the original German story from the 19th century.

To begin with, the king (Tony Bedford) comes across as a combination of a certain power-mad leader we all know and a Brooklyn gangster. In addition, Russell adds a subplot in which “Comrade Orange,” as the king is known, colludes with a Russian leader to bring about the unification of their two countries by marrying off one of his daughters to the Russian’s son.

References to “fake news” and other contemporary nods to the Trump situation will go right over young kids’ heads, but they make the show relevant and entertaining for teens and adults.
Russell also makes the soldier (Sam Wood) a homeless man, and the woman who gives him the magic cloak (Deb Magee) is also a homeless pan-handler. The mashup of time periods and political realities makes this classic fairy tale feel fresh. The princesses are all wonderful performers, providing great comic moments as well as dancing abilities that include every style from Irish step-dancing to Renaissance court dances to tap (choreographed by Courtney Reardon). And Dick Morrill, (Prince Yannis and Bill), is always a delight.

The show starts fairly late for a children’s show, rightly encouraging kids over 8 years old, but it would be a perfect stop on your way out of town on parade day, or any other time you’re on the Outer Cape.

The Magic Cloak is presented by WHAT for Kids in the Pavilion at WHAT, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet, Mondays – Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. through August 23. For tickets ($12) and information, call 508.349.9428 or visit what.org.