Eagle Valley students to stage ‘Cinderella’

Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily"Cinderella" cast members Sarah Meline, center left, Celine Williams, and Emily Kingston, right, as a fairy godmother rehears a dance scene Monday night at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum. The play "Cinderella" opens Thursday night in Gypsum.

GYPSUM – Mention the Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical “Cinderella” to the average Baby Boomer generation female and chances are good it will produce a fond response.

The original production, which was developed expressly as a television special, aired on March 31, 1957 and starred Julie Andrews, who was fresh off her Broadway success in “My Fair Lady.” The show attracted some 107 million viewers – 60 percent of the American population at the time. For many years, the original “Cinderella” held the record for the highest number of viewers of any television program ever aired. Ironically, because videotaping technology was rudimentary at the time, the production was a one-time event.

That changed in 1965 when CBS presented a second television “Cinderella” production. This time Lesley Ann Warren had the lead role in the lavish, color production. The musical would air annually for the next eight years and watching “Cinderella” became a beloved family event.

The most recent national television rendition of “Cinderella” was presented in 1997 and starred pop singer Brandy with Whitney Houston playing her Fairy Godmother.

With all this history and the beloved nature of the musical to consider, how does it feel for Eagle Valley High School students to step into those famed glass slippers?

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“The songs are kind of iconic,” says Zoe Thrasher, who plays one of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters.

She has a point. From the Cinderella solo on “In My Own Little Corner” to her duet with Prince Charming in “Ten Minutes Ago” to the comical “Stepsisters’ Lament” to the Fairy Godmother’s “Impossible: It’s Possible,” the musical features songs that are instantly familiar to audiences.

“It’s a well-known play so it will get the little kids excited,” said Melodey Matthews, who will share time with Christina Smith in the titled role of Cinderella.

With 39 students participating, this spring’s EVHS musical features one of the largest casts ever assembled. To accommodate the large numbers, directors Cathy Strickler and Pat Sheehy assembled two entire “Cinderella” casts. One group will perform Thursday and Saturday night. The other will perform Friday night and the Saturday matinee.

The students say they are happy to share stage time because the different casts each give unique interpretations of the musical. But the double cast also meant that twice as many kids had to learn dance moves and other intricacies of the musical. Both the familiarity of the music and the shear number of songs in the play provided a big challenge for the two casts.

“There’s a part of the play that has three songs, right in a row,” said Lane Smith, one of the stepsisters.

Steven Siefers, who shares the role of the Herald with Will Dutmer, has one of the biggest lyrical challenges in “Cinderella.” The song “The Prince is Giving a Ball” is the first production number in the musical and it features the prince’s huge litany of names – His Royal Highness Christopher Rupert Windmehr Lademehr Carl Alexander Francois Reginal Lansalot Herman Gregory James – followed by equally verbose monikers for the king and queen.

“But that first phrase is ridiculously long,” said Siefers.

The challenges in producing “Cinderella” extend beyond the music. It is, after all, a classic, magical fairy tale. The stage crew has to create a carriage from a pumpkin and horses from mice. Cast members credited Pam Smith for the set construction. Additionally, what’s a fairy tale without girls in ball gowns? Stalwart volunteer Nikki Fowles again created costuming wonders for the musical.

“Cinderella” is also a big event for very personal reasons at EVHS. It is the first musical to be produced in the school’s newly refurbished auditorium. The performance will feature better acoustics and lighting, not to mention more comfortable seating, for the production. For the performers themselves, the EVHS auditorium now has a more spacious backstage area for both costuming and waiting in the wings.

“We have a lot of new technology in the auditorium,” said Christina Smith, one of the Cinderellas.

“It’s just a great play. People should come. People should come and see both groups,” said Fairy Godmother Emily Kingston.

Or, as her character would advise, that might just be possible.

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