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BWW Review: Happily Ever After: MSMT Presents Robin and Clark's CINDERELLA with a Contemporary Twist

BWW Review: Happily Ever After: MSMT Presents Robin and Clark's CINDERELLA with a Contemporary Twist

There is a moment in Robin and Clark's musical version of Cinderella when the scullery maid screws up her courage and hurls a self-affirmation back to her abusive stepmother and sisters, saying, "No! I've always done everything you asked and now it is time for me to do something for myself!" The audience young and old erupts into spontaneous applause for this very contemporary heroine. Though Marc Robin and Curt Dale Clark's musical is more than twenty-five years old, it speaks with a freshness and an appeal that are as lasting as the fairy tale itself, and Maine State Music Theatre's most recent production captures all the delightfulness and the darkness of the story and serves it up with customary flair.

Using Charles Perreault and Brothers Grimm as source material, Robin and Clark tone down some of the harsh moments of the original but subtly point up the themes of child abuse, finding self-esteem amid bullying, and embracing the redemption that comes from recognizing inner beauty, finding forgiveness, and believing in the transformative power of love. What these co-creators of some fifteen musicals for young audiences understand so well is how to weave humor into meaning, the contemporary into the timeless, and magic into the moment. The show moves at a fun-filled pace; the characters frequently engage the young audience, and in this case, actually bring some of them on stage to help Cinderella with her chores. The score is one of their most lyrical with lovely solos such as "Happily Ever After" for Cinderella and the soaring love duet for the Prince and his bride at the end; the comic numbers for the step-trio boast deliciously funny lyrics and infectious music, while the Fairy Godmother gets to belt it out with soulful power and persuasiveness.

Curt Dale Clark directs and choreographs with skillful assistance from Raymond Marc Dumont. Clark understands how to play to both the young in the audience and their older companions, never talking down to the children, and sharing little knowing asides with the adults. He keeps the pace lively, the musical staging vividly pictorial and kinetic. The decision to cast the stepmother and stepsisters with men is no small factor in creating the comedic dimension. Drawing on a long theatrical tradition - think roles like Lady Bracknell or Edna Turnblatt - the very transformation of these actors into overbearing, shrewish ladies in hoop skirts, heels, and elaborate wigs adds elements of outrageousness and grotesquerie to the comedy.

BWW Review: Happily Ever After: MSMT Presents Robin and Clark's CINDERELLA with a Contemporary TwistMusic Director Ben McNaboe not only provides the lyric piano accompaniment, but he has also done a fine job arranging the score for two keyboards and percussion so that it retains a more luxururious sound.

Using the Million Dollar Quartet set as a backdrop is no small challenge, but set designer Forest Horsley makes it work with a collection of artfully painted large props with the pumpkin coach is particularly eye-catching creation. Annalise Caudle helps complete the illusion with her lighting design that camoflauges the MDQ set and creates the contrast between dreary cottage and magnificent palace. Travis M. Grant adapts the costumes from the Marriott Lincolnshire Rentals with a eye for color and whimsy and does a fine job accessorizing and creating the outlandish wigs. Moreover, he creates a dazzling moment when Cinderella is transformed into an elegant princess, radiant in a pink ball gown, jewels, and flowing tresses. Sound Designer Nathan Dickson creates an appealing balance between the vocalists and the behind the skrim instrumentalists. Stage Manager Laura Scott and her team anchor the show firmly and are effective in bringing the youngsters into the action in moments like those when children are invited onstage.

The young artists of the cast invest the tale with a believable genuineness, sound vocalism, and excellent timing. Madelyn Rancourt is touching as the gentle Cinderella who ultimately finds confidence and self-assertiveness when she sees within her grasp the realization of her dreams. Elliott Nagler is a courtly Prince, while Nakesha "Kay" Warren makes the Fairy Godmother a force to be reckoned with - a motherly figure who tells it as it is and who uses her considerable inner energy to harness the good deeds and imaginations of the children. The stepfamily trio brings high energy and wacky gags to the action. As the two jealous, mean-spirited sisters, Andrew Carney (Giggeletta) and Miles Obrey (Soberella) provide both physical comedy and breathless silliness, while Ben Walker-Dubay is an imperious, supercilious Blanch. In contrast Brian Pelletier offers a deadpan take on the Prince's page Sir Reginald. Together they coalesce into a tight ensemble that plays to their young audience with sincerity and warmth.

Cinderella, of course, ends with the promise of happily ever after, but in this version that happiness is more than just the union of a prince and his bride; it is the shared discovery of protagonists and audience that true happiness lies in the capacity to dream and the tenacity to make those dreams come true. Told in story and song with memorable music and lyrics, MSMT's Cinderella pulses with humor, heartfelt emotion, and the sparkle of fantasy that makes it a delightful experience for audiences of all ages.

Photos courtesy of MSMT

Cinderella is being performed at MSMT's Pickard Theater, 1 Bath Rd., Brunswick, ME June 13 at 10:00 am and 12:30 pm and again on June 16 at 11am and 1:00 pm 207-725-8769

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From This Author Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold