In April 2001, I played five small roles in my first-ever Woodstock Opera House show: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” Now, over 21 years later, Theatre 121 is staging the same musical, but this one is the “Enchanted” edition – and this production is truly enchanting. Based on the Sunday matinee performance I attended, children of all ages – even those of us with AARP cards – were captivated by the lead performances, singing, costumes, humor, romance and set.
In this version, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Elaine Cashmore) is the sparkly narrator of our song-filled fairy tale. She tells us of the loss of our title heroine’s mother, the planting of a tree in her memory to which Cinderella (Cassidy Reich) could come for solace, and the subsequent death of Cinderella’s remarried father. As we see early on in Act I, Cinderella’s stepmother (Holly O’Hair) and stepsisters Grace (Jordan Rakittke) and Joy (Jessica Falco) all make her life miserable, treating her like an unloved servant who should be barely seen and never heard.
Enter Prince Christopher (Jay Krug), who literally bumps into a package-laden Cinderella, knocking purchases from her hands. They have a pleasant conversation, but Cinderella doesn’t recognize him, and he never gets her name. Lionel (Jackson Nielsen), the royal steward, arrives to make an exciting musical announcement: “The Prince Is Giving a Ball.” The invitation is for “every eligible young maiden” in the kingdom. This is a surprise to Christopher, who tells Lionel, “This has my mother written all over it!” Indeed, Queen Constantina (Melanie Johnson) wants her son to meet and marry a young lady, and King Maximillian (Jeff Graf) wants to keep his wife happy.
Will Cinderella have to stay “In My Own Little Corner” of her cottage? Will she go to the ball against her stepmother’s wishes, or is that “Impossible”? Will Cinderella and Christopher meet and fall for each other, having “A Lovely Night”? Will the prince once again neglect to get her name, let alone an address, before a magical midnight curfew separates them? You know the answers to those questions, which feature song titles from the show. Even better for short attention spans: Theatre 121′s journey to a “happily ever after” ending takes under two hours.
This “Cinderella” is definitely worth seeing, especially if you have little ones who love live theater or have yet to be exposed to it, and there are many reasons:
The beautiful singing voices of the cast, particularly Cashmore, Reich and Krug;
The believable chemistry Reich and Krug’s characters have together – you know they deserve each other long before they ever kiss;
The hilarious back-and-forth of the squabbling sisters played by Rakittke and Falco (such as Grace’s discussion with Joy about Cinderella: “Have you ever seen a slower girl in all your life?” “Who are you calling slow?” “Not you, stupid – her!” “Hey, who you calling stupid?”) and their fun duet in Act II, “Stepsisters’ Lament”;
The portrayal of the stepmother by O’Hair; she strikes a nice balance between cruelty and understandable frustration;
The gorgeous costumes by designer Will Roberts – from the dazzling pastel outfit worn by the Fairy Godmother to the garish, neon-colored gowns Grace and Joy wear to the ball, to the king and queen’s majestic apparel;
The impressive set pieces from scenic designers Cashmore, Mike Frale, Tracey Lanman and Tiffany Matras, especially Cinderella’s tree and pumpkin-shaped coach;
The novel use of puppets for Cinderella’s animal friends (cat, dove, mice); kudos to puppetry captain Janelle Graf;
The humorous dialogue sprinkled throughout (such as the Fairy Godmother explaining why she won’t be going to the ball herself: “I’ve done so many of these do’s, I couldn’t do another do!”);
The hard work behind the scenes by Artistic Director Frale, vocal director Brandy Braxton and choreographer Heather-Grace Bach to bring out the best in their 18 actors in the dramatic/comedic interactions, songs and dances.
My only problem with the production was at times being unable to hear dialogue and lyrics over the 10-member orchestra. The principal actors were miked, but because of the talented instrumentalists’ volume, I still missed some of the exposition at the beginning by the Fairy Godmother and an intimate conversation between Christopher and Cinderella in the palace garden. And because of the orchestra, be advised that the first row on the main floor available to “Cinderella” audience members is Row C, in case you have one of the errant Row B tickets.
Those concerns likely will be addressed in remaining performances, so I strongly recommend a family outing to “Cinderella.” It’s an enchanting show with a happy ending, but with all the fun you’ll have, you won’t be happy to see it ending.
• Paul Lockwood is a singer, local theater actor (including the new adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” coming to the Woodstock Opera House), Grace Lutheran Church (Woodstock) and Toastmasters member, theater reviewer, podcaster, columnist, business proposal writer, and past president of TownSquare Players. He’s lived in Woodstock for over 21 years.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Theatre 121′s “Cinderella” musical by Rodgers & Hammerstein
WHERE: Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, varied times on Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 16
INFORMATION: 815-338-5300, www.woodstockoperahouse.com