By DAVID DOW BENTLEY III “The People’s Critic”
Conroe’s wonderful Crighton Theatre has, for many years, continued to send me personal invitations to the shows mounted by the much-loved STAGE RIGHT PRODUCTIONS Company. The group has as its longstanding motto: “A Community for the Entire Family.” That motto has perhaps never been more appropriate than for the very cute current offering of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, CINDERELLA, cheerfully directed by Stage Right veteran, Sara Preisler.
A show full of adorable, local young children, this is clearly a community gem that should bring out a crowd full of friends, neighbors and the families of all the children involved. Other folks, who have ever enjoyed a really well-done elementary school program full of creative sets and sweet kids dressed in beautifully designed costumes, may want to consider joining in the fun with upcoming audiences.
These youngsters sing and dance beautifully while playing the parts Cinderella’s mice, her birds, and her mischievous black cat. They are scene stealers at every bend in the road. (Set design and choreography by director Preisler & Cricket Pepper, Costume designer, Debbie Preisler, and Musical Direction by Layne Roberts).
Whether in throne rooms or royal ballrooms, the adults in this cast are regally costumed as well. They give it their all in performing the several charming R&H songs, that for more than half a century have made their way from the earliest TV version of the show (with Julie Andrews), and on to national tours, and even Broadway. And speaking of those charming songs, my only complaint would be the absence of a running song list in the printed program. I’m surprised that omission was permitted by the vendor, R&H Theatricals.
I assume there is no need to detail the familiar tale of pretty young Cinderella (Kathleen Baker), who is horribly abused by her vain and sinister Stepmother (Christina Sato), and her whining, cackling and uproariously annoying stepsisters, Grace (Madison Mapes), and Joy (Alexandra Casey). But of course, relief is on the way in the person of the handsome Prince Christopher (Lucas Olivarez). His parents (Rob Baker as the King, and Martha Davis as the Queen) have a plan to get their son married, but meanwhile, they keep a close eye on him with the help of Lionel, the Royal Steward (an amusingly droll performance from Todd Brady).
Adding to the fun is the kooky and explosive performance of vocally talented Shananda Poulos in the role of of the Fairy Godmother. Poulos really ignites the stage with fine singing and a zany characterization that somehow reminded me of Queen Latifah. She brings magic to the stage in more ways than one, and I’m still wondering how Cinderella was instantly changed from her rags to her ball gown! Mapes and Casey bring jealous hilarity to their over-the-top “Stepsisters Lament,” while wondering, ”Why would a fellow want a girl like that?” as the Prince shows romantic interest in Cinderella.
Other song delights include, “The Prince is Giving a Ball,” Cinderella’s very sweet, “In My Own Little Corner,” the exciting ensemble number,” The Prince is Giving a Ball,” and the equally exciting, “Impossible; It’s Possible,” duet from Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother. The elegant “Gavotte,” and charming “Waltz for a Ball,” were beautifully danced by the cast in the palace, and other melodic treats include, “Ten Minutes Ago,” “A Lovely Night,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”
As you might imagine, after some difficulty Cinderella does get her Prince and the wedding scene climax is an opulent dandy that brought the cheering crowd to its feet. Audience member, Renée La Fleur, was a first-time visitor to the Crighton, and smiled widely as she told me, “This is really bringing me back to my childhood.” Why not come see for yourself this weekend?
CINDERELLA runs thru Nov. 3rd with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range $17-$26, according to age, with discounts for groups. Reservations are available at www.stage-right.org, or call 936-441-7469 weekdays between 3 and 6 p.m. The Crighton Theatre is at 234 N. Main in downtown Conroe, Texas.
A member of both The Lambs Club Inc. and The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the columns of DAVID DOW BENTLEY III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com . E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.