Everyone knows the Cinderella story, so obviously I did not attend the performance for the plot-line. I was not sitting on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next, nor did I really care about Cinderella’s well-being because I already knew what was going to happen. This is not to say that Ellyse Hampshire, senior, was unable to fulfill the role with ease. She was sufficiently sugary and Disneyesque. Her excessively saccharine charm and innocence perfectly personified the role of Cinderella, and she was visually stunning.
If Cinderella was the sugar, then Prince Christopher, played by Jake Van Ollefen, senior, completed the mix. Van Ollefen’s sarcasm and dry wit complimented Hampshire’s syrupy interpretation of Cinderella, that was, until the “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” number.
“Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?”
I blame the script.
Now, the Cinderella cake production could have been dry in some parts without the other ingredients. Notable characters were the evil stepmother, played by Ally Bass, senior, and the comical ugly stepsisters, played by Alyssa Petrone and Lauren Wilder, seniors.
Perhaps the butter, the ingredient that added the most flavor and richness to the production, was a combination of Wilder and Spiro Trance, senior, who played the Royal Steward. Both Trance and Wilder were my favorite additions of comic relief and helped keep the show exciting.
Mary Robert McGrath, junior, definitely spiced up the traditionally drab role of the Fairy Godmother with enough attitude and spunk to land her in a Tyler Perry movie. More spice included what I like to call the sassy horses. These cheeky creatures were played by Kordell Draper, Bob Nelson, Brooks Jordan and John Wolf, juniors. During a rather mushy moment between Cinderella and Prince Christopher, the horses nearly stole the show in white track suit get-ups complete with horsey head pieces. Not only was their appearance humorous, but they literally brought tears to my eyes as they whinnied, neighed and pawed the ground dramatically.
Many times perceived as part of the scenery, the villagers and palace guests were intriguing on their own. If one were to watch closely, they would see relationships forming from scene to scene. In fact, some musical numbers would have fallen to dust without the singing villagers creating a resonant backdrop of sound.
The heat used to bake such a successful production can only come from one thing—chemistry. While Cinderella and Prince Christopher definitely had chemistry, the warmest connection came from the king and queen, played by Davis Plunkett, senior, and Alicia Reid, junior. Not only did they perform well together on stage, but their voices were seamlessly matched. Obviously hugging Plunkett’s vocal range at its peak, his rich sound was fit for a king. Reid’s classically trained voice glittered with the grace. In fact, Reid created a little magic of her own as the whole auditorium fell completely silent, hanging on her every note. I was captivated.
No cake is complete without frosting, and Leesville is notorious for using a lot of it. I cannot write a successful review without giving a clear nod to the Technical Theatre Department. The set and sound were on point and each crew created a visual fairytale that allowed me to escape reality. This was also due to the musical mastery of the pit orchestra and Diane Covington, Choir Director, on the piano. The engaging choreography was also endorsed with dance teacher, Cindy Hoban’s very recognizable signature. Due to her versatile selection of movement, the visual appeal was stunning.
To top it all off, every cake needs a little surprise–perhaps some colorful sprinkles. The sprinkles of this production were the Leesville Elementary students who played Cinderella’s furry friends. The Arwood, Dinkenor and Wilkerson children cheerfully immersed the audience in their excitement, which proved to be quite entertaining. Not only were they delightfully amusing, but they showed no sign of stage-fright and appeared to have a blast throughout the show.
Leesville’s production sent me back in time, to simpler days before college applications and AP testing; to the days when I dressed up in tutus and stumbled along in my mother’s heels. If a musical can induce any feelings of nostalgia, you know the cast, crew and directors have enchanted the audience. Well done, Pride Productions.