‘Cinderella’ at Encore Stage & Studio

Encore Stage & Studio presents a musical version of Cinderella, with book by Vera Morris and music and lyrics by Bill Francoer. Marji Jepperson directs a large cast of young actors in this production, alongside Technical Director Kristen Jepperson and Music Director Douglas Ullman, Jr.

Malena Davis (Cinderella) and Zoe Rocchio (Fairy Godmother). Photo by Larry McClemons.
Malena Davis (Cinderella) and Zoe Rocchio (Fairy Godmother). Photo by Larry McClemons.

A variety of sets designed by Kristen Jepperson are used throughout the show, including a posh living room with a large stone fireplace and golden curtains, a garden framed  by an ivy-covered trellis, and a royal ballroom, where Lighting Designer and Master Technician Gary Hauptman uses some creativity to give the impression of stone columns.

Costume Designer Debra Leonard does a nice job dressing the characters, including loud and lurid dresses for the stepsisters, and a beautiful ball gown for Cinderella that very closely matches the famed blue gown from the Disney version. A lot of the costumes looked homemade, including a variety of animals like mice, dragons, and winged horses. For the most part this was fine, but some of the costumes were a bit ill-fitted. Overall, the technical elements were pretty impressive…wait until you see the life-sized princess carriage wheeled onstage!

We all know the story of how the put-upon Cinderella (a charming performance by Malena Davis) meets her Prince (Eric Ratliff) with the help of her Fairy Godmother (the energetic, friendly Zoe Rocchio) and some woodland friends. Some lovely singing voices are debuted in this production, particularly that of Davis during her duet with the Prince “Behind the Mask.” I just wish the musical material was a bit more lively so it would have allowed Choreographer Sarah Conrad more to work with. And these young actors were so talented, that I wish the book was more challenging for them and showcased their talents more.

From left to right: Queen (Erin Poplin), Cleopatra (Ana McMenamin), Brunhilda (Gracie Slye), Stepmother (Charlotte Maskelony), Cinderella (Malena Davis),and the Prince (Eric Ratliff). Photo by Larry McClemons.
From left to right: Queen (Erin Poplin), Cleopatra (Ana McMenamin), Brunhilda (Gracie Slye), Stepmother (Charlotte Maskelony), Cinderella (Malena Davis), and the Prince (Eric Ratliff). Photo by Larry McClemons.

Physical comedy from Gracie Slye and Ana McMenamin as the evil stepsisters livened up one musical number as Cinderella’s Stepmother (Charlotte Maskelony) sang about her daughters (hilariously lacking) “grace” and “poise.” There are also a couple pleasing new plot details in this version, including a clever Apprentice Fairy Godmother (Helena Knittig) who has some magic of her own.

Speaking of the stepsisters, these two girls unapologetically stole the show from everyone else! Gracie Slye and Ana McMenamin were hilarious as Brunhilda and Cleopatra, the ever-squabbling siblings (“Me! Me! ME!”) with over-inflated senses of self. Together with their scheming mother, this dynamic trio were the most memorable performances by far. Other standouts included Grace Koppelman as the temperamental Mistress Haughty and Erin Loftus as Atilla, Cinderella’s cat-turned-footman.

 Cinderella (Malena Davis) meets her Prince (Eric Ratliff) at the ball. Photo by Larry McClemons.
Cinderella (Malena Davis) meets her Prince (Eric Ratliff) at the ball. Photo by Larry McClemons.

The team of directors were able to encourage solid performances from the young cast and they work well together. For fans of the timeless classic, and for youngsters to see their peers pursuing their passions onstage, which I always encourage, Encore Stage & Studio’s production of Cinderella is worthy!

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

Cinderella plays through January 18, 2015 at Encore Stage & Studio performing at The Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre – 125 South Old Glebe Road, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 548-1154, or purchase them online.

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