As a transplant to the Triangle area, all I knew about Raleigh Little Theatre’s 34th annual production of Cinderella is that it is a must-see Triangle Christmas tradition. I first caught the show last year; and since then, I have learned much about the show’s rich, decades-long history, and about RLT‘s wonderful theater community in general. So, it was with great excitement that I joined a packed house last night to catch this year’s production, eager to enjoy this show more fully. The production delivered on all counts.
RLT‘s Cinderella follows the classic fairy tale for the most part, with some notable departures. The Fairy Godmother’s role is greatly expanded; and, as in previous years, Tina Morris-Anderson sparkles in the role. Her two Fairy Helpers, played by Elizabeth Quesada and Rebecca Holland, vouch for Cinderella as deserving of the FG’s help, and provide many of the laughs along the way. Quesada’s comedic timing was especially hilarious, and Holland’s more restrained persona didn’t stop her from cuddling up to the Prince at opportune moments. Their antics and references to Taylor Swift, Twitter, and other 21st century elements made this fairy trio an essential part of the evening’s fun.
Even though Cinderella is essentially the same show each year, it’s still traditional for each director to put their stamp on this RLT classic. The husband-and-wife team of Rod Rich and Nancy Gardner Rich co-directed the 2017 edition of the show, and have done some clever rewrites that greatly benefit the current production. The overall story was streamlined and scenes such as the marketplace encounter, during which Cinderella and the Prince first bump into each other, flowed well.
Lauren Bamford’s Cinderella is delightful: beleaguered but sweet, with hidden depths and determination. Her trademark song, “What’s to Become of Me?,” was revitalized to give Cinderella more spunk and a bit of backbone, which paid off well in later scenes.
Davis Leonard’s Prince was appropriately handsome and charming, interacting with Timothy Locklear’s loveably daffy King Darling III with a smart combination of patience and frustration. Alison Lawrence’s ear-shattering Stepmama, played beautifully off of the classic team of Tim Cherry’s Henrietta and M. Dennis Poole’s Gertrude, who as usual got many of the laughs throughout the evening.
The show zips along at a proper pace for a 90-minute production, perfect for the younger audience members to manage without an intermission. The audience-participation elements of the show were fun, especially for the starry-eyed females (and occasional adult males) who got to try on the slipper during a “Facebook Live Feed,” filmed by the Fairy Helpers.
Likewise, the sound and lighting effects greatly added to the show, without being distracting (although an early costume change could have done with a bit less strobing). The choreography was clever and brought some laughs all on its own, and the vocals were strong all around.
The show’s costuming is delightfully whimsical, with elaborately detailed mile-high wigs. It’s a wonder some of the characters could even do the choreography at all and speaks well to the talent of the entire cast and design crew.
In the end, the Prince finds his mysterious princess; and in a charming twist, they manage to save each other. Overall, Rod and Nancy Rich’s vision of empowered femininity made for a more relevant fairy tale that keeps the happily-ever-after, and makes this show a highly satisfying family treat for the holidays.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 20th Raleigh, NC News & Observer video preview by Travis Long: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article186066763.html.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents CINDERELLA at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8, 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15, and 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17 in its Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St. Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $33 ($27 RLT members).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0Sd000000jMBCFEA4.
SHOW: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/cinderella/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/541936856149075/.
RLT‘S 2017-18 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/tickets/memberships.html.
PRESENTER: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/RaleighLittleTheatre, https://twitter.com/RLT1936, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raleigh_Little_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/raleighlittletheatre.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows. RLT has also installed a hearing loop in the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10th, performance.
Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper Cendrillon, or La petite Pantoufle de Verre (1697 French fairy tale): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cinderella-folktale-heroine (Encyclopædia Britannica) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella (Wikipedia).
Charles Perrault (French author, 1628-1703): https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Perrault (Encyclopædia Britannica) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Perrault (Wikipedia).
Cinderella (e-texts of various versions of the fairy tale, as written by Charles Perrault and others): http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0510a.html (from D. L. Ashliman’s folk texts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology).
Cinderella (Prince Street Players Version): https://www.princestreetplayers.com/cinderella (Prince Street Players), https://www.mtishows.com/cinderella-prince-street-players-version (Music Theatre International), and http://www.guidetomusicaltheatre.com/shows_c/cinderella.htm (Guide to Musical Theatre).
Jeanne Bargy (music): https://www.princestreetplayers.com/our-shows (Prince Street Players bio).
Jim Eiler (music, lyrics, and book): https://www.princestreetplayers.com/our-shows (Prince Street Players bio).
Rod Rich (co-director): https://www.facebook.com/rod.rich.33 (Facebook page).
Nancy Gardner Rich (co-director): https://www.facebook.com/nancy.g.rich.3 (Facebook page).
Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She also studied dance at San Diego Mesa College and acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and at The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA. She has performed locally at the Holly Springs Cultural Center in Holly Springs, Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in Raleigh, and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum in Cary. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.