A young Black woman in a white party dress stands smiling center stage. Another Black woman in a Jamaican-style dress and head scarf stands smiling behind her.
Miciah Lathan (left) and Melanie McCullough in The Other Cinderella at Black Ensemble Theater

It’s been a minute since I’ve visited the Kingdom of Other: 13 years, to be precise. The last time I saw Jackie Taylor’s The Other Cinderella was in 2010, before Black Ensemble Theater moved to their spacious Clark Street home. (And it was certainly long before BET planned an expansion across the street that will include artist housing, an education and media center, and performance spaces—a plan enabled at least in part by a $5 million grant by MacKenzie Scott.)

The Other Cinderella
Through 1/14: Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark, 773-769-4451, blackensembletheater.org, $56.50-$66.50

But no matter how big BET gets, one hopes that Taylor’s delightful contemporary musical take on Cinderella, which premiered 47 years ago, will always be in the company’s repertoire. Featuring songs by Taylor and Michael Philip Ward that blend soul, rock, R&B, and pop (as well as a Janis Joplinesque blues number for Dorothy—yes, that Dorothy, the one from Kansas), it’s a funny and unabashedly crowd-pleasing show. The only sour note in this year’s updated book is a reference to Cinders’s Jamaican Fairy Godmama (Melanie McCullough) having a date with (offstage footman) Jonathan Majors (Cinders’s offstage footman is Michael B. Jordan). Given the Majors’s current trial on misdemeanor assault charges in the wake of domestic violence allegations, it felt awkward.

But that brief line aside, the show works as a celebration of accepting the Other—whether it’s Dorothy (Colleen Virginia Perry), the white girl joining the all-Black kingdom, a gay duke’s son (played by Makenzy Jenkins) winning the approval of the king (Vincent Jordan), or two royal attendants (Dennis Dent and Caitlin Dobbins) realizing colorism isn’t a good reason for them to ignore the passion they feel for each other.

Of course at the heart of it is Miciah Lathan in the title role. A victim of circumstances—she wasn’t able to finish high school because her stepmother (Cynthia F. Carter, in glorious scenery-chewing mode) made her drop out to take care of the house—she’s still not about to sit around and throw herself a pity party. She even gets in some good verbal jabs at her vacuous stepsisters, Geneva (Michelle Renée Bester) and Margarite (Brittany Edwards). Lathan, along with Qiana C. McNary’s Queen, have the pipes to blow the roof off. (RJ Griffith as Prince Charles is also quite good, but Taylor’s show, which she also directs, definitely lets the women shine brightest for the most part.)

Our guide into this world is Brandon Lewis’s Page, the first guy from the ’hood to win that exalted job (via lottery). His confusion about royal protocol and his desire to bridge the gap between his rising rank and his longtime friends is a nifty encapsulation of the importance of loyalty to others and belief in one’s self—key lessons for all the characters, royal or not. At nearly 50 years old, The Other Cinderella still sparkles.