His royal highness Christopher Rupert Vwindemier Vlandamier Carl Alexander Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James — is giving a ball! And not just any ball! But the ball of a lifetime, a chance to meet the Prince, fall in love, and be married off into happily ever after! The perfect classic fairy tale for the holidays, Olney Theatre Center is proud to present Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Directed by Bobby Smith with Musical Direction by Christopher Youstra, this enchanting magical story will fill you with a giddy cheer just in time for the holidays.
Costume Designer Pei Lee invites the audience into the whimsical world of Cinderella with her vibrant colors and fantastical designs. The characters of the village pop like those from a picture book, their resplendent skirts and fancy shirts catching everyone’s eyes as they twirl about and sing. The dresses featured at the ball are dazzling luxuries in exquisite shades of pinks and purples. Lee’s work is best showcased in the outlandish costumes featured in the step-family. Making the stepsisters look even more absurd in the absolutely hideous and garish pink and chartreuse color scheme with black checkerboard patterning to match, she outdoes herself in accentuating their nonsensical nature. And it’s impossible to tell who wears more glamorous glitter, the fairy godmother in her gauzy white gown or Cinderella in her butterfly studded ball dress.
Furthering the enchantment of such a story is Choreographer Ilona Kessell. With a touch of storybook magic in her style, Kessell sprinkles fairydust into her dancers and the result is spectacular. During “The Prince is Giving A Ball” the villagers leap about like wooden dolls from inside a music box set to life by winding a key. Their toy-like motions are alluring and augment the notion of fantasy in this production. And the waltzing, whirling, and twirling at the ball is nothing short of magically and romantically bewitching as the couples, Cinderella and the Prince spin round and round to the melodies of Richard Rodgers.
At the head of the royal family sits the King (Dan Manning) and the Queen (Carole Graham Lehan). With a comic sense of intuitive advice both Manning and Lehan offer a lighthearted approach to the Prince’s predicament, and both are regal without being snooty in their approach their roles as royalty. Manning possess the rich velvety sound of aged wisdom when he sings “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” with Lehan, their voices melding together in a deep classic approach to long-standing love.
Opposite the royal family is the not so royal family, in fact the step-family. Headed by Stepmother (Donna Migliaccio) and filled out with the glazed ham show stealers Joy (Jamie Kelton) and Grace (Tracy Lynn Olivera). Migliaccio masters the haughty airs of a cruel stepmother who knows her own daughters share the IQ of a pumpkin, her exasperation with them never ceasing to amuse all who watch. And her flirtations with the royal steward are slinky and terrifying all in one go.
But the gems of that family, however grossly they shine, are Kelton and Olivera. It’s like watching two frightening bouncy yappy poodles trussed up in hideous dresses and equally obnoxious demeanors to the point of hysterics. Their shenanigans are an uproarious hoot that will have you bursting at the seams with laughter as they inadvertently vie to prove who can be stupider. Olivera manifests her character with a flagrant disregard for how a lady should act. Kelton provides a squeaky sound as annoying as her character is dense. She plays well off Olivera and their quick-spark chemistry of always being at each other’s throats is to die for. This bumbling comic duo is priceless in their song “Stepsisters’ Lament” and give stellar performances throughout the show.
Another over the top performance that is simply incredible comes from Lionel (Kevin McAllister) the royal steward. McAllister has a regal flamboyance about his character that makes him utterly laughable and enjoyable while still portraying to the hilt the importance of his role in the Prince’s life. His rich voice that belts “The Prince is Giving a Ball” heralds the call of urgency with all of the regality that such a proclamation is due. His overall interactions with the Prince and the Stepmother are brilliants winks of comedic genius and leave your heart filled with bubbles of laughter.
Fairy Godmother (Terry Burrell) livens things up with her magical voice and marvelous stage presence. While only getting one big song, it’s an amazing bout of brilliance as she belts out her beliefs on dreamers and zanies and fools in “Impossible.” Burrell is charming, delightful, and all around the answer to every girl’s magic prayers. She is one Fairy Godmother who you’d want sticking around to help the stunning transformation from plain country bumpkin to radiant princess.
It would not be a true fairytale story without a Prince (Matthew John Kacergis). And this prince is indeed charming. When singing his solo in “The Sweetest Sounds” he sweeps you off your feet with his dulcet tone and soothing voice. His chemistry with Cinderella is a delightful innocent notion of fairy tale love. When Kacergis duets “Ten Minutes Ago” with Cinderella the pair sing with stardust sparkling in their song, as if the heavens have dripped true love at first sight into their voices. This romantic sentiment is echoed in their duet “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” as well, making for a shining night of majesty and wonder.
The title of the story, the cinder maid herself, Cinderella (Jessica Lauren Ball) is a fairy tale dream come true. Ball has a delicate beauty about her character, the subtle way she composes herself, the simplistic joys, all tied together in a pure undiluted voice that rings clearly in every song she sings. Ball’s imaginative prowess is inviting and strong when she sings “In My Own Little Corner” each scenario she sings like a liquid painting come to life, every role adapted to her persona as she twitters over the luxuries of her own mind’s dreams. Her mesmerizing duet, “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” is drenched deeply with love and compassion when she sings with the Prince, and her jovial spirits are uplifted and sung out warmly for all to hear when she regales her stepfamily with the tale of the ball in “A Lovely Night.” Ball is the shining belle of the ball; a perfect princess, a stunning Cinderella if ever there was one.
Bring the entire family to Olney Theatre Center’s majestic Cinderella. It’s a royal treat!
Running Time: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Cinderella plays through December 30, 2012 at Olney Theatre Center’s Main Stage – 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road in Olney, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 924-3400, or purchase them online.