by Caitlin Spiegel – Oakton High School
The archetypes of the Cinderella story can be seen in cultural folktales as diverse as Germany, China and the early Americas. The origin of the musical begins in the mid-1950’s with the CBS television network. Executives sought out prominent Broadway writing duo Rodgers and Hammerstein to adapt the story for a 90 minute time slot with commercial breaks.
The musical-for-television aired only once with Julie Andrews in the title role. Subsequent productions have strived to modernize the characters as well as add to the score by grafting in discarded music and lyrics from other Rodgers and Hammerstein pieces. McLean Theatre contributes to the rich history of this tale with their lively and magical production.
First and foremost, freshman performer Cinderella (Syd Kirk) radiated poise as she spread her message of kindness to the prince and townspeople. Her vocal proficiency never faltered during the delivery of multiple solos, duets and ensemble numbers. Her skill was further elevated by her love interest Prince Topher (Christophe Jelinski), who embodied a sweet, innocent disposition that complimented Cinderella’s.
A contrast to the couple’s benevolence was Stepmother (Diana Suk) and Lord Protectorate Sebastian (George Stifel). The scheming duo was constantly in character, reacting to Topher falling head over heels for Cinderella with feisty disapproval. One of the most comedic moments of the night came during “Announcing the Banquet.” Sebastian remarked that Prince Topher would pursue his lost love and with a resigned expression added, “As for the rest of us, there’s gonna be ham.” Within Sebastian’s group of heralds, Pinkleton (Tori Garcia) stood out with her crystal clear soprano.
Ensemble members maintained a constant energy and well timed execution of choreography. While the overall volume in group numbers was sometimes an issue, vocalists made up for it with their engagement in the song. A particularly fun ensemble piece was “Stepsisters Lament”, led by stepsister Gabrielle (Abby Comey). Their frustration with the prince’s choice was hilariously conveyed through exaggerated facial expressions and choreography.
In setting the scene for this enchanted fairy tale, McLean technicians expertly used a scrim curtain with tree stenciling. Different tones set by adjusting the color and opacity on the curtain, such as the red flare used for the stepmother’s entrance. Spotlights accentuated Cinderella’s entrances and exits from the castle.
Set pieces were well constructed, but sometimes underwhelming considering the grandeur of the story. The biggest surprise of the night came from the costuming department, who managed to hide elegant ball gowns under what seemed to be rags. The audience stood in awe as Cinderella twirled around to reveal a beautiful white dress and tiara fit to meet a prince.
In closing, McLean High School successfully brought this well-known fairy tale to the stage with strong leads, a dedicated ensemble, and technical skill. After seeing the show, audiences are left anticipating what story they will take on next.