Raleigh Little Theatre’s gorgeous 25th-anniversary presentation of Cinderella, which completes its two-week run Dec. 18-21 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater, sparkles like the purest silver nugget in bright sunlight. The show’s storybook sets by Rick Young and Bill Rodgers and its Technicolor costumes by Vicki Olson and John Franklin make RLT’s Cinderella a feast for the eye; but it is the contagious high spirits of the cast and exuberant and imaginative musical staging by director Haskell Fitz-Simons, choreographer Missy Dapper, and musical director Megan Crosson that provides an exquisite showcase — a jewel box, if you will — for some gemlike performances in this enchanting musical extravaganza.
Michelle Brooks Shumate is positively radiant as the poor lonely Cinderella, a bedraggled orphan cruelly exploited as a kitchen scullion by her Wicked Stepmother (Sandi Sullivan as a devil in petticoats) and constantly abused by her Ugly Stepsisters (the scene-stealing duo of Dennis Poole as Gertrude and Tim Cherry as Henrietta). Mark Mollenkopf is a dashing Prince Charming I, Mark Ridenhour is delightful as the nearsighted old lecher King Darling III, and Lisa Kinlaw is a stitch as Fairy Godmother. Warren Keyes and Jason Cooper are amusing as Fairy Godmother’s Helpers Snow and Flake, but like their names they are just a little too silly to be taken in large doses.
Judging from the 1 p.m. Saturday audience’s enthusiastic response to this 25th edition of Cinderella, Raleigh Little Theatre’s revamped version of Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy’s impish musical adaptation of Charles Perrault’s 17th century French fairy tale, originally written for the Prince Street Players Ltd. of New York City, may well light up the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater stage for another 25 years. Long-time RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons, his backstage collaborators, and cast deserve kudos for keeping Cinderella fun for the whole family, year after year.