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Raleigh Little Theatre Review: RLT's 21st Edition of Cinderella Is A Marvelous Musical Spectacular

& Preview: Raleigh Little Theatre Preview: RLT’S Hilarious Musical Version of Cinderella Will Delight Triangle Children of All Ages

December 14, 2004 - Raleigh, NC:


Raleigh Little Theatre’s 2004 production of The Prince Street Players’ version of Cinderella, which runs through Dec. 19 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, is a marvelous musical spectacular, with magnificent storybook sets by Bill Rodgers, Brent Menschinger, and Rick Young; elaborate and colorful 18th century costumes by John Franklin and Vicki Olson; and lovely lighting by Cailen Waddell.

Once again, RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons superbly orchestrates the show’s comic and romantic moments and, with the assistance of Miss Dapper, crisply choreographs the play’s rousing production numbers, with “The Sneeze Polka” serving as one of the production’s comic highlights. Musical director/conductor Jane Williams and Dave Aduddell (bass), Ramon Kenon (trumpet), Wayne Leechford (clarinet), Bill McHenry (French horn), Vince Moss (percussion), Kevin O’Barr (piano), and Kent Parks (synthesizer) make The Prince Street Players’ score — with additional music and lyrics by Haskell Fitz-Simons, Suann A. Strickland, and Nancy Whelan and new orchestrations by F. Charles Anderson — sparkle like a treasure chest of precious (musical) gems.

Susannah DuPree is lovely as the poor exploited orphan-turned-domestic-drudge Cinderella, and Jason Roberts is dashing as Prince Charming I. Sandi Sullivan is a stitch as Cinderella’s rambunctious Fairy Godmother, and Curtis Scott Brown and Ian Meeks are highly entertaining as the Fairy Godmother’s two Helpers, who temporarily assume the roles of statues and palace guards with equal aplomb.

G. Paul Slovensky is a bit subdued in the Harpo Marx-like role of near-sighted, woman-crazy King Darling III; but Jo Brown is a veritable Queen of Mean as Cinderella’s wicked Stepmother, wearing an outlandish skirt that makes her five feet wide; and Timothy Cherry and M. Dennis Poole are hysterically funny, gallumping around the stage in drag as Henrietta and Gertrude, the biggest, ugliest, and coarsest stepsisters ever.

Targeted toward children, Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy’s animated adaptation of this beloved fairy story by French author Charles Perrault (1628-1703) is a potent mixture of musical theater and English pantomime. Thanks to a host of crackerjack comic characterizations and the considerable theatrical magic evoked by director/co-choreographer Haskell Fitz-Simons and cohorts, Raleigh Little Theatre transforms this children’s show into a musical extravaganza that will entertain Triangle children of all ages. Don’t miss it!

Raleigh Little Theatre presents Cinderella Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, Dec. 16-17, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 18-19, at 1 and 5 p.m. in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $15-$25. 919/821-3111 or via etix.... Note 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and there will be assistive listening devices at all performances. Note 2: There will be audio description and American Sign Language interpretation at the 5 p.m. Dec. 18 performance. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/cind.htm [inactive 4/06].

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PREVIEW: Raleigh Little Theatre Preview: RLT’S Hilarious Musical Version of Cinderella Will Delight Triangle Children of All Ages

by Robert W. McDowell

Raleigh Little Theatre’s 21st annual presentation of Cinderella, presented Dec. 10-19 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, will be a gala affair and a highlight of the local theater season. Moreover, Cinderella has become a Triangle holiday tradition, second only to Theatre in the Park’s madcap musical version of A Christmas Carol in longevity.

Based on the now-familiar fairy tale by French writer and poet Charles Perrault (1628-1703), who penned his 1697 collection, Contes de ma mère l’oye (Tales of Mother Goose), in a simple, unaffected style to entertain his children, this hilarious musical features a book and lyrics by Jim Eiler and music by Eiler and Jeanne Bargy, who originally adapted the beloved story for The Prince Street Players, which specialized in children’s musicals that charmed and amused children of all ages.

In describing this screamingly funny fractured fairy tale, a Christian Science Monitor critic once wrote, "In a way it is all too good for children which of course is the only thing good enough for them.”

" I love the seasonal return to this ‘old friend,’” admits RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons. "Cinderella still casts a magical spell for its audiences. Each year brings new delights as each new company recreates the timeless story of true love and happy-ever-after-ing.”

He adds, “This year, we are fortunate to have Susannah DuPree playing the role of Cinderella. Susannah returns to the cast after a number of years’ hiatus. She played a Mouse for about four seasons!”

In addition to Susannah DuPree, RLT’s all-star cast for Cinderella includes Sandi Sullivan as the Fairy Godmother; Jo Brown as the wicked Step Mother; Tim Cherry and Dennis Poole, in drag, as Cinderella’s ungainly and hideously ugly stepsisters Henrietta and Gertrude; Jason Roberts as the handsome and dashing Prince Charming; and Paul Slovensky as the aging and hopelessly nearsighted but still amorous King Darling III.

In her news release, RLT Public Relations Director Sarah Corrin calls The Prince Street Players’ vivacious version of Cinderella a “very special version of the famous tale.” She says “the script incorporates seasonal elements like Prince Charming’s Christmas ball.

"Styled after England’s traditional Christmas pantomimes,” Corrin continues, “the show overflows with sumptuous 18th century dress and includes the ugliest, yet funniest, step-sisters ever to stomp across a stage. (It probably has to do with the fact that they’re played by men!)

Corrin says, “The production keeps the fairy tale magic front and center too, as the Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella into a princess onstage right before the audience’s eyes. And for the little girl who dreams of becoming Cinderella, Raleigh Little Theatre gives her the chance to have her dream come true. As the Prince searches hither and yon for his “mysterious princess,” he goes through the audience trying the glass slipper on any girl who presents her dainty (or not so dainty) foot.”

In addition to director Haskell Fitz-Simons, who also helped Missy Dapper choreograph the show, the creative brain trust for Cinderella includes musical director Jane Williams; set designers Bill Rogers, Brent Menschinger, and Rick Young; lighting designer Calen Waddell, and costume designer Vicki Olson.

With two decades of Cinderellas serving as a cash cow for RLT, and bringing out the very best in its cast and crew, director Haskell Fitz-Simons knows every comic and dramatic moment in this happily-ever-after-ing musical by heart. “Keeping the show fresh and immediate after all these years is always a challenge,” he claims.

Raleigh Little Theatre presents Cinderella Friday, Dec. 10, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 11-12, at 1 and 5 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, Dec. 16-17, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 18-19, at 1 and 5 p.m. in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $15-$25. 919/821-3111 or via etix....Note 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and there will be assistive listening devices at all performances. Note 2: There will be audio description and American Sign Language interpretation at the 5 p.m. Dec. 18 performance. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/cind.htm [inactive 4/06].