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ACT Play Review: Important lessons taught in Cinderella

What makes this show special is the attention to every tiny detail.

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Mitchell Area Community Theatre (Courtesy photo)
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Many a young girl has dreamed of being Cinderella: a fairy godmother to grant her wish, a beautiful ball gown, a glass slipper, a charming prince. The original tale as we know it was published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, but the story has roots in folklore dating back to the ancient Greeks. Mitchell Area Community Theatre has selected the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s version, adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs based on a teleplay by Robert I Freedman, and directed by Devin Carey, as its season closer.

Years ago, this version was televised annually with an all-star cast singing the hits by the noted composer/lyricist team that brought us “South Pacific, “Oklahoma” and “The Sound of Music.” Although these songs may not be as familiar to theater-goers as the Disney version is, it is essentially the familiar tale of a young girl (ACT veteran Samantha Menning) who is dominated by a cruel stepmother (Valarie Marsh), transported via magic by a fairy godmother (the incomparable Noel Ahlers) and united with her prince (Cade Bruna) to live happily ever after.

A supporting cast of two uproarious stepsisters (Stephanie Eliason and Aaryona Nedved), King Maximillian (Reed Pazour), Queen Constantina (Maria Schwader) and a whole company of townspeople deliver a terrific rendition. What makes this show special is the attention to every tiny detail: the painstakingly painted set; the wishing tree, the use of pantomime to incorporate animals into the story; and, of course, a magical coach and an enchanted dress.

Julie Brookbank
Julie Brookbank

Carey has assembled a cast of strong singers led by Bruna, Meaning and Ahlers who deliver the iconic songs that will have older audience members waxing nostalgic. Meaning nails her performance of “In My Own Little Corner,” Bruna’s powerful tenor leads “Do I Love You because You are Beautiful?” And, of course, the fairy godmother’s peppy interpretation of “Impossible.” Marsh, Eliason and Nedved will have you laughing each time they appear and, as a group, deliver a hilarious performance of “The Stepsister’s Lament.”

I would be remiss to not acknowledge the costume team of Ruth Sejnoha, Mary Day, Darcie Vermeulen and Tara Winger. This reviewer has witnessed a lot of stagecraft, but never have I been as perplexed as I was at how the design team managed to change Cinderella into a glittering blue ball gown right before our eyes. Every costume on display was handcrafted or altered by this team of talented seamstresses.

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Carey’s set design allows for the state to transform from a dingy cottage to a town square to a palace fit for a king. Stan Sherwood’s artistic talents are on display with the creative murals he has painted. Lights and sound were perfectly on cue at the performance I attended, all synced to create a wondrous feast for the eyes and ears.

There are important lessons in “Cinderella,” of the wages of bullying and the value of imagination. Bring your children to this show; they will love the visuals, but even more they will learn what is possible for those who dream from “their own little corners.”

The show by Area Community Theatre has performances Friday, June 17, and Saturday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 19, at 2 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theater or more information is available at 996-9137 or at www.mitchellact.org.

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