A live action production of one of childhood’s most favorite fairy tales opened in Kansas City’s historic Union Station and on the H&R Block City Stage when Theatre for Young America performed “Cinderella,” a musical play in the English Pantomime style, June 9 through 28.
Theater for Young America explained that in their version, authors Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy adapted the Charles Perrault French tale with lively music and dance, and lots of humor. This “Cinderella” features the Stepmother and her daughters Henrietta and Gertrude, a stumbling King Darling and his court, a handsome Prince Charming, Cinderella, and of course a magical Fairy Godmother. To help the Fairy Godmother, she employs her sprite attendants to move the play to its happy ending.
Theatre for Young America said that this version of this fairy tale was first performed by the famous Prince Street Players in 1965 in New York City.
Hanna Freeman plays Cinderella and Wil Andrews-Weiss portrays Prince Charming. Parry Luellen plays King Darling and Stephanie Charlton portrays the ambitious Stepmother. Cinderella’s selfish step-sisters, come to life via Eric Johansen and Mike Ott. Lena Andrews will play the magical Fairy Godmother. Eight students from the TYA acting classes play sprites and royal guards.
Under the direction of Gene Mackey, Tim Braselton, musical director; Amy Hurrelbrink, choreographer; Alexandra Pilley, production stae manager; Eric Van Horn, Set designer and technical director; Valerie Mackey and Kaitlin Gould, costume designers; Sheryl Bryant, education director and costumer; Shane Rowse, lighting designer, and mieke Westra, assistant Stage Manager; the talents combined for a magical rendition of the French Fairytale.
The complete cast includes: Lena Andrews as Fairy God Mother, Wil Andrews-Weiss as Prince Charming, Stephanie Charlton as Stepmother, Hannah Freeman as Cinderella, Eric Johansen as Gertrude, Parry Luellen as King Darling, Mike Ott as Henrietta, with Alec Colonge, Isaac Robinson and Drake Taylor as guards; and Jaila Powell Freeland, Ashely Grega, Naya Jones, Jamie Monty, and Caire Stephens as helpers.
TYA’s production features some beautiful voices in the form of Andrews and Freeman who get to show off their clear and crisp soprano sounds. The most entertaining acting honors go to Ott and Johansen who take on wigs, garish makeup, and ugly dresses as the two stepsisters. Their facial expressions and physical comedy are the heart of the show.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy the story. It’s really a very simple fairy tale and none of the characters challenge the skills of this band of actors. Still, each one takes his or her part and adds personal flourishes to bring them to life.
Freeman as Cinderella is demure, sweet, and enchanting. Andrews is happy and bright as Fairy God Mother. Andrews-Weiss’ Prince Charming is just that, charming. Wil posesses a good voice and his stature is crisp and formal as a prince should be. As King Darling, Luellen is just downright funny as the nearly blind king who doesn’t know who he’s talking to. Charlton is funny, but not scary, as the stepmother. And, then there are the kids who have had previous training with TYA. All of the young thespians show stage presence and are budding actors.
According to TYA, the first story version of a Cinderella type story appeared in China in 860 A. D. in a book called Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang by Tuan Ch’eng-Shih. Cinderella’s Chinese name was Yeh-Shen. In this story, the bones of a pet fish, killed by the stepmother, becomes a sort of fairy godmother. The magical fishbones provide her with tiny golden shoes. Cinderella, Yeh-Shen, has the smallest feet in the whole land, which was an important aspect of beauty in the Chinese culture. She loses a shoe, which a warlord finds, and vows that he will find her and marry her.
A more familiar version is the Italian version credited to Italian storyteller Giambattista Basile in 1634, TYA said. By 1697, the story of Cinderella made its way to France and was adapted by French writer Charles Perrault, who introduced the glass slipper, the fairy godmother, and the pumpkin carriage.
Performance Schedule for “Cinderella”: June 6, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27 at 10 a.m.; June 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27 at noon; June 14, 21, 28 at 2 p.m.; and June 27 at 7 p.m.
Single tickets and group reservations may be purchased online at www.unionstation.org or by calling Union Station at 816.460.2020, or Theatre for Young America at 816.460.2083. The single ticket price is $9. Groups of 15 or more are $5.50 per person with a reservation. Season tickets are available at www.tya.org or by calling 816.460.2083.