It might not have occurred to you that Cinderella is a fairytale for the holidays, but at the Covedale Center they’ve made it into a cheerful family-friendly extravaganza, decked out with tinsel, glitter, snow, a midwinter ball and Christmas caroling. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the portly king had sprouted a white beard and the pumpkin coach was pulled by reindeer.
The show comes from the Golden Age of Broadway, featuring music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Except it was never on Broadway: Rather, it was a TV special in 1957 with Julie Andrews, then 22, in the leading role. Since then, it’s been fluffed up as a stage musical. It’s still the familiar story of a bedraggled young woman abused by her stepfamily, a magical fairy godmother, a handsome prince and a glass slipper. Director Tim Perrino has staged it with sprightly dancing (choreography by Karie-Lee Sutherland) and an energetic if largely amateur cast.
Katie Hamilton-Meier is a sweet, hardworking Cinderella, and Jonathan Zeng is her idealistic, handsome prince; both do nice jobs with the singing, although none of the musical numbers are especially memorable. The protective Queen (Torie Pate) and the laissez-faire and overweight King (Dave Wellert) are two-dimensional cardboard characters who don’t come to life.
Cinderella’s stepfamily provides some welcome comic relief. Joshua Steele does an amusing drag take on the Stepmother, a characterization derived from the same crabby, cranky corner of melancholy as Ebenezer Scrooge. Loudmouth Joy (Teresa Wellman) and awkward Portia (Melanie Woodruff) are Cinderella’s nasty, stupid stepsisters, constantly bickering with one another. There’s a tad too much hamming for my taste, but the audience never stopped chuckling at their bad behavior.
Eileen Earnest plays a giddy Fairy Godmother who spends too much time onstage spinning and twirling to initiate magic. The special effects, especially the transformation of cute hand-puppet mice and rats into horses and coachmen, were nearly overwhelmed by stage fog that masked the swapping of performers.
At the Sunday matinee I attended, the audience was dotted with little girls in princess gowns and tiaras. They evidently loved what they were seeing (based on the numerous squeals of delight when Cinderella and her prince kissed), and they were whom this production was designed to please. I would have preferred a little more polish and professionalism, but that would not have improved the afternoon for the young audience members. The Covedale knows who it’s entertaining.
CINDERELLA, produced by Cincinnati Landmark Productions at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, continues through Dec. 23.