BWW Review: CINDERELLA, Raleigh Little Theatre
If you're looking for a fun family show to see this holiday season, Raleigh Little Theatre's CINDERELLA is a great choice. This year marks the 36th annual production of the musical and Mike McGee returns to direct for his second year. The show is based on the original, well-known fairy tale by Charles Perrault and adapted by Jim Eiler. It's an outlandish yet narratively simple version of the story, but it's sure to thrill younger children.
The show is centered around the Fairy Godmother (otherwise known as FG) and her helpers who are seeking out someone to help. When they find poor, mistreated Cinderella and the lonely Prince, they set out to help them and then realize they can accomplish both at the same time. In this version of the story, Ella and the Prince bond over their shared love of books in the village square before they ever meet at the ball, which is a sweet touch. The show contains references to many pieces of pop culture like Frozen, Friends, and Mary Poppins.
In fact, the show is very similar to the British panto tradition of children's shows performed around Christmas-time. Cinderella, like any good panto, includes audience interaction, men in drag playing female characters, and the inclusion of modern music. (In this case, the stepsisters and stepmother sing Beyonce's "Single Ladies" briefly and it's hilarious.) The actors use the aisles of the theatre and interact with the audience, often breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to them. The smattering of songs by Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy aren't too memorable, but do their job nicely.
Ryann Perkins makes her RLT debut as Cinderella and has a sweetness and a lovely voice that are well suited to the titular character. LoRee Wilkinson lends her wonderful soprano voice to the role of the Fairy Godmother. Hannah Smith and Rachel Ullman are appropriately energetic and cheerful as the Fairy Godmother's helpers. Lauren Tompkins is fantastic as Cinderella's evil stepmama.
The roles of the evil stepsisters, Gertrude and Henrietta, are double cast this year with Dr. Timothy Cherry and M. Dennis Poole splitting the roles with Quenton Hocutt and Greg Hill. I got to see Cherry and Poole who are returning to play the sisters for their 22nd year. They are outrageously hilarious with their over the top acting.
The costumes are one of the highlights of the show. They were designed by Jenny Mitchell and Jeremy David Clos with the original design by Vicki Olson. The townspeople wear vaguely colonial style clothing and the ballgowns are particularly pretty. But it's the stepsisters and stepmother's garish clothing and makeup that are the best.
The show is perfect for children, as they can connect with the simple familiar story and will appreciate the audience interaction. Plus, at just 90 minutes long, it's an easier length for a child to sit through. In the lobby, they are selling crowns, wands, and tutus and there were several little girls in Cinderella dresses in the audience the night I attended. After the show, the cast go out to the lobby to take photos and sign autographs.
Raleigh Little Theatre's Cinderella is good holiday fun. While it's certainly nothing ground-breaking, it's a style of theatre that we see less often in this area and that can be enjoyed by the whole family. This year's version is certainly a good one with its talented cast. I look forward to seeing many more productions of Cinderella at RLT in Decembers to come.
Cinderella is running to December 22 in the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre. You can find more information here.
Photo Credit: Cindy McEnery