Living “happily ever after” takes on new meaning with the reconceived Broadway adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” at the PCPA Theatre in Santa Maria. This 2013 musical of the classic fairy tale by American playwright Douglas Carter Beane incorporates a more contemporary tone and introduces new themes of social responsibility and empowerment.
Beane based this new production on an earlier version of the story written by French author Charles Perrault. It adds new characters, surprising plot twists and updated music along with memorable songs from the original show including, “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible,” and “Ten Minutes Ago.”
The PCPA production is directed and choreographed by Michael Jenkinson, who notes in the program, “I love the old ‘Cinderella,’ but this one is so fresh. They really gave it a point of view as opposed to just being a romantic retelling of a classic fairy tale.”
Kindhearted Ella (Molly Wetzel) is forced to do chores for her oppressive and self-centered stepmother, Madame (Kitty Balay), while she dreams of a better life. Ella also lives with her two stepsisters — friendly Gabrielle (Karin Hendricks) and self-absorbed Charlotte (Annali Fuchs).
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The charming Prince Topher (Jordan Stidham), tired of slaying giants and dragons, is struggling to find inspiration and meaning in his life. His devious advisor, Lord Sebastian (Peter S. Hadres), is concerned about the dissention brewing in the kingdom. As a distraction, he urges the Prince to hold a grand ball to find a bride. Meanwhile, Sebastian plots with Madame to trick the Prince into marrying Gabrielle, who is secretly in love with political activist Jean-Michel (Matt Koenig).
A poor beggar woman, Marie (Elizabeth Stuart), is taken with Ella’s kindness and magically gives her a beautiful gown, glass slippers and carriage to attend the ball. Ella wins the heart of the Prince but disappears at the stroke of midnight. Now the Prince must find his true love. When they meet again, Ella encourages the Prince to listen to the poor people and take action. Ultimately, the Prince finds compassion and Ella learns to believe in herself.
The talented cast of “Cinderella” sparkles with each musical number and seamlessly balances the contemporary humor with the fantastical setting. Wetzel and Stidham are perfectly cast as Ella and the Prince. Balay shines as she struts around the stage as the prima donna, Madame. Fuchs is hilarious as the twisted sister, Charlotte, while Hendricks smartly plays the caring Gabrielle.
The scenic design by Jason Bolen captures the essence of a magical kingdom with wooded forests, quaint villages and a magnificent castle. Multicolored lighting by designer Jennifer ‘Z’ Zornow sets the mood for both the romantic and action sequences. Vibrant costumes by Eddy L. Barrows create a fantasy world with lavish gowns and simple peasant outfits; including some creative costume changes. Musical Director is Brad Carroll and Andrew Philpot is the Voice and Text Director.
This modernized version of “Cinderella” proves that the classic tale of romantic love and self-discovery can stand the test of time.
1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday; 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday; through Dec. 23. Also 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 and Dec. 22 and 7 p.m. on Dec. 23
Marian Theatre, 800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria
$29.50 - $39.50 with discounts for seniors, students and children
805-922-8313 or www.pcpa.org