Ragged, hungry, unemployed, and overtaxed villagers stand in the Fabulous Kingdom square singing the lament, “Things Aren’t So Fabulous in Fabulous Kingdom.”
In a small stone cottage at the edge of the kingdom, a handsome young man in rags sits on a three-legged wooden stool next to an anemic kitchen fire. His dark hair, dark eyes, and olive-colored cheeks and hands are smudged with cinders: the product of pouring coal into the sitting room and bedroom fireplaces for his stepmother and two stepbrothers. Cinder, muscular from doing so many chores, and lonely from his life of solitude, sings the touching ballad, “Stimulating Myself.” A voice is heard saying, “Doesn’t that have a double meaning?”
“Stop!” Hello Nicky and Noah fans. We’re back! Just like a recurring case of herpes. It’s Nicky Abbondanza, director of plays, musicals, bodybuilding competition, murder mystery show, luau show, films, modeling runway, ballet, and television. Not to mention top thespian sleuth (and I do mean top), having solved fourteen mass murder mystery cases. Here I am sitting in another theatre à la Abe Lincoln waiting for my execution. However, unlike Abe in his toxic box seat, I’m front row center holding the play director’s survival kit: an electronic tablet and cyanide pills. For you Nicky and Noah newbies, or our loyal fans having a senior moment, I’m Professor of Play Directing at Treemeadow College (founded by wealthy gay couple Tree and Meadow) in Treemeadow Vermont, where everything is cozy—including the fifty murders that occurred there. The top line of the college application asks, “Burial or cremation?” But I’m not at Treemeadow now. Our last summer’s foray into theme park theatre was such a success, a lucrative offer came my way from another theme park this summer: the newly constructed Fairies’ Tails Theme Park appropriately in a suburb of San Francisco. The city of steep hills, crowded cable cars, and painted ladies—including the drag queens. The newly built theme park offers walk-around characters like a wolf chasing a twink in a red hoodie, a guy named Tom with a roving thumb, three S&M pigs, a snow queen, a wooden hunk with a pointy nose and growing appendage, and the Catholic priests’ favorite—little boy blue who blows his horn. Rides include swinging on a long vine and sitting on a giant’s lap. Attraction highlights are visiting the home of a golden-haired youth surrounded by three bears, and the abode of a young hunk with a snow-white complexion and seven devoted little daddies. Where does this daddy fit in? No pun intended. My task is to create and present an original musical of Cinderella in the theme park’s new Fairies’ Tails Theatre. My department chair and best friend, Martin Anderson, eyeing the plum role of the Fairy Godmother for himself, offered me his script entitled, Every Boy Needs a Fairy with a Big Wand. Thankfully an up-and-coming gay playwright from San Francisco, Kirk Castle, had heard about the new theme park and submitted his superior musical version, Let’s Ball, and we were off. Casting the play was the next order of business. Although I am forty-seven, I look thirty (if I squint at a mirror in a darkened room). My maturity, tallness, dark hair and long dark sideburns (thanks to the men’s hair coloring rinse that doesn’t look like shoe polish) make me the perfect queen to play the king with a long scepter. And BTW my real scepter is nearly a foot long—flaccid! The recipient of all that royalty is my forty-year-old, handsome, sweet, adoring and adorable husband Noah Oliver, Associate Professor of Acting, who is playing the queen to my king (onstage and off). Before my friend Martin could attack me with his defibrillator, I cast Martin in the dual roles of Stepmother and Fairy Godmother. This caused Martin’s long-suffering husband, Ruben Markinson, to create a slingshot with his hernia belt and wallop me with his dentures until I agreed to cast Ruben as the duke, the king’s brother. How old are Martin and Ruben? A schizophrenic scribe hearing voices in his head once wrote, “In the beginning…” Martin and Ruben were born before that. Taavi Kapule Oliver Abbondanza, who Noah and I adopted as a little boy from his native Hawaii, threatened to hurl me into an erupting volcano during an earthquake unless I cast the eighteen-year-old as stepbrother Gro. Martin and Ruben’s seventeen-year-old adopted son, Ty Wilde Anderson Markinson, resorted to his street roots by writing on buildings in graffiti, “Nicky Abbondanza is middle-aged,” until I cast him as the second stepbrother, Tesque. That left the remaining roles to be cast with local professional actors: Amador Lorenz as Cinder, Paddy Braden as Prince Charming, Tej Vevi as Mouse/Coachman, Nate Friedman as Mouse/Footman, and Sloan Thomas as Horse. Hiring the ensemble members, designers, and technical crew came last. Since Noah and I (as copied by Taavi and Ty) wear a dress shirt, dress slacks, and a blazer, we enjoy dressing up in our fairytale (no pun intended) costumes. Covering my pumped up (before it all drops down) gym body is a gold tunic and crown with royal blue tights (over a crushing dance belt) and a long cape.
The comment stopping this run-through, like a parent coming between a priest and a new altar boy, was made by Carl Catalango, our playwright’s agent and stepbrother. I turned to the mere twenty-three-year-old sitting down the row to my left. “Yes, Carl, the opening song has a double-meaning. Just like directing a show. You see while putting together a production can be a creative and fulfilling experience, it can also be a total nightmare. For example, in this production, our non-stop technical dress rehearsal just came to a screeching halt—like a voting-for-all law presented by Democrats to Republicans in Congress. Why? Not for the usual reasons like a diva actor causing conflict, or mishaps with the sets, lighting, costumes, or props. This run-through was stopped because the playwright’s agent asked if the opening song has a double-meaning!”
Kirk Castle, sitting next to Carl, adjusted his round glasses and rubbed his dark receding hairline. Gazing at his stepbrother adoringly, the author said, “Carl, the ‘Stimulating Myself’ song uses subtext, which is a great writers’ tool.”
No pun intended.
Kirk explained, “Cinder is poor, exhausted, lonely, and frustrated by the pandemonium around him.”
I can relate.
“In this rare moment of solitude, we get a glimpse at Cinder’s pain.”