Key themes in the text are highlighted by the bumbling Toby, who as a true Fool, always speaks the truth, even though it is usually misunderstood by the others in the play.
The following are three important themes in the show, which can be explored through discussion in your classroom.
Friendship and Injustice
The theme of friendship is closely linked to battling injustice in the play and is explored through the bond between Toby and Cindy, who are both of servant status but are champions for truth and love at heart. Cindy begins the story alone and besieged by her step mother and step sisters who wrongfully pretend to be her superiors. She forms a friendship with Toby who travels alone from town to town looking for work and together they help each other defeat the awful Mrs Van Undersquire. The play emphasises that together Toby and Cindy could overcome their troubles but alone they could not. It is with the foolish Toby’s help, that justice is brought about, showing that true help can come from the most unlikely of sources.
Love is shown in the play as the driving force between good and bad. The relationship that forms between Cindy and the Prince is the hallmark true love that the Cinderella story is known for, but it is the love of wealth and nobility that drives the scheming of Mrs Van Undersquire. The love that her daughters believe they have with the Prince gives us the example that love is blind; shown by their unknowing of their mothers plots and also how ridiculous they become to woo the Prince. Love in this play represents something that is both powerful and full of possibility which gives young audiences a way of engaging with notions such as status, morality, imagination and emotions.
Teamwork and Humour
Core to the form of vaudeville is teamwork. Together the clowns make the show happen and without it none of them would exist. Vaudeville allows the show a wink to the audience, telling them that it is a piece of theatre and gives them power to make fun at authority figures and injustice. The vaudeville clowns and Toby work in collaboration to achieve the final objective, through bumbling feats and acts of silliness, that ultimately leads Toby to save the show and help Cindy. By working together, Toby and the clowns help Cindy get to the Masquerade Ball, dressing her more beautifully than she ever could have wished. On the other hand, Mrs Van Undersquire and her daughters do not work together and this quickly leads to their downfall. By working together, in ways that both lampoon and enhance injustice and relationships of power, the characters in this play help young audiences to understand the concept of 'right and wrong'.