CINDERELLA, Emerald City Theatre Company, at the Apollo Theater. It’s only briefly incongruous to see this fairy tale performed on the same stage as The Vagina Monologues. Emerald City boils down the beautiful Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptation (recently revived at the Oriental Theatre) to an essential hour that retains but reduces most of the captivating songs.

For children–who are all too aware of the multifaceted unfairness of grown-ups and siblings–Perrault’s old tale of patient merit gloriously rewarded is so much catnip. Never too rushed and gently participatory, L. Walter Stearns’s staging rewards the considerable energy required to imagine that Collette Pollard’s roll-on props transform the stage into a princely palace. Charissa Armon’s Cinderella is fully worthy of Shea Rafferty’s handsome prince. The show pits one concept of motherhood against another–and Marssie Mencotti is suitably insufferable as the slatternly stepmother, a cunning contrast to Suzanne Genz’s properly maternal godmother.

Emerald’s interactive treatment–the search for the slipper takes Michael Kingston’s herald through the audience–emphasizes a self-help ethic: Cinderella in effect earns her happy ending. The production’s one big misstep is encouraging the kids to scream “What about Cinderella?” then failing to produce her. By the rules of children’s theater, that’s like letting Tinker Bell die after we’ve clapped our hands. Happily, after the show kids get to collect autographs from their favorite characters.

–Lawrence Bommer