BWW Review: Steeped in Tradition, Raleigh Little Theatre's CINDERELLA Brims with Enchantment
Seeing children at the theater makes me giddy with excitement. Seeing them dressed up in costumes and fully immersed in the experience gives me hope for the future. I'm also a sucker for tradition. So, to say that the Raleigh Little Theatre's 35th annual holiday production of CINDERELLA checked all those boxes and exceeded my expectations would be an understatement.
Yes, this production is bustling with local talent, including the charming Lauren Knott (Cinderella), the bewitching Lauren Bamford (Fairy Godmother) and the wickedly witty Elizabeth Quesada (Stepmama). And yes, the show has humor due in part to funny men Timothy Cherry and M. Dennis Poole, who have played opposite each other as Cinderella's stepsisters for over twenty years. But what makes this production truly enchanting is the fact that it has been nurtured with tender loving care by collaborators director Mike McGee, choreographer Jess Barbour, and music director Joanna Li.
McGee's gentle touch and keen blocking, along with Cailen Waddell's clever lighting, results in just enough stage magic to make believers out of the kids and turn the cynics into softies. Barbour overcomes the challenge of moving a large ensemble around a limited stage space gracefully, particularly during the cleverly choreographed ballroom scene. And Joanna Li has composed two peppy new songs for this production, including one for King Darling III, ably played by jokester TJ Rogers.
In addition, the ambitious set is suitably stately, and the colorful costumes befit the storybook tale.
The only fault of this production has to do with some sound issues. While the ensemble could be heard loud and clear, particularly during the big Town Square numbers, some of the leading actors' big, beautiful moments were muffled, breathy, and hard to understand. But that didn't seem to bother the kids who were glued to their seats for 90 minutes straight with no intermission and completely captivated.
And if there were any doubts as to how taken the kids were with this show, there wasn't a kid in the house who didn't sneeze on cue during the Sneeze Polka or who didn't stick their feet out to try on the glass slipper as Prince Charming whisked through the aisles. And I'm not sure any family passed up the meet-and-greet opportunity with the entire cast after the show.
And that's what good children's theater, including this lovely production of CINDERELLA, does. It engages the audience, triggers the imagination, teaches empathy, and encourages kids to dream. It also tears the tikes away from their screens for a short time and reconnects families, an apt reminder of what the holiday season is all about.
CINDERELLA runs through December 16th. For more information visit https://raleighlittletheatre.org/.
Photo by Cindy McEnery.