There is no disputing the ageless charm of a fairy tale. Read it at bedtime or re-discover it in animation or live theater and the fascination is still there,. No matter how many times or in what form the glass slipper fits or the kiss of first love awakens, the tales are multi-generational, appealing to young and old alike
One of the favorites, “Cinderella,” is on stage through Aug. 21 at The Barn Theatre. Even though the message of true love seeing through several layers of grime to the princess beneath is still predominant, this version (there have been many) also focuses on the importance of being one’s own person and standing up for one’s self.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II first put music to the tale in 1957, with musical theater princess Julie Andrews in the title role fora black & white television production. It was revamped in 1965, also for the small screen, adding color and several more musical numbers as Leslie Ann Warren portrayed the long-suffering title character. The final TV version, in 1997, featured color-blind casting and inserted the Godmother-driven pitch for women’s rights as well as several more gently-used R&H songs.
However “Cinderella” is patched together musically, it never ceases to deliver the popular mantra that right will triumph and love conquers all, especially when the leading players sing well and look good in fancy costumes.
Overcoming my Disney-influenced feeling that Cinderella was a blonde, The Barn production features Annie Wessendarp in a black wig as the put-upon sister who definitely has the last laugh over her haughty Stepmother (Penelope Alex) and her shrieky, whiney, sausage-curled stepsisters misnamed Joy (Miriam Hendel-Moellman) and Grace (Natalie Sparbeck).
Definitely in Cinderella’s “Own Little Corner” is her upbeat fairy Godmother (Amy Harpenau) who dismisses Cindy’s misgivings as “Fol-De-Rol,” pointing out that , with the right attitude, nothing is “Impossible.” She transforms available animals and objects into the traditional coach-and-four with a wave of her wand — and she does it all while singing and whooshing around the stage on roller skates!
Of course it is the persistence of Prince Christopher (Jamey Grisham) and his search for the lady with the foot that fits the glass slipper left on the palace steps that finally puts Cinderella in her rightful place. Along the way, he is pushed towards marriage by his mother, Queen Constantina (Emily May Smith) and his father, King Maximillian (Roy Brown) (who happen to be really married) and by the royal steward, Lionel (Hans Friedrichs), who makes the most of his many laugh lines.
Audience members of all ages were delighted by the appearance of Cinderella’s animal helpers: four mice, a rabbit and a cat, who offered advice from the windows and the back of the couch.
The required settings are numerous and changes were handled by cast members, some more successfully than others. Early costuming for the ensemble as villagers was appropriately mis-matched and bright. When they became ball guests, however, it seemed to become “pick-a-period.” Dresses were floor length or short, full and flowing or narrow and clinging, with little thought to carrying through one time period. The costumer could have taken a cue from the young audience members who opted to attend the production in Cinderella gowns, many of whom met their favorite characters post-show for autographs.
Music director John Jay Espino and his band of four did well by the Rodgers score, both up-tempos and ballads, and many left the theater humming one of the lovely tunes.
“CINDERELLA” plays through Aug.21 in the theater on M-62 between Galesburg and Augusta, Mich. For information and reservations, call (269) 731-4121 between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily or visit www.barntheatre.com.Music