Conard High School Musical Productions will present Rodgers + Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella’ in West Hartford for two weekends beginning March 10, 2017.
By Ronni Newton
There’s a beautiful girl trapped in a life of drudgery by a mean stepmother who dotes on her “daughters who matter,” a glass slipper, transformations of a pumpkin and some animals, and of course a handsome prince, but the production of “Cinderella” that the audience will see at West Hartford’s Conard High School includes some twists that will surprise those familiar with only the Disney version.
There’s a political twist to the Rodgers + Hammerstein show that Conard is presenting, and the depth of the characters and storyline make the show entertaining for adults, while at the same time the fairy tale elements and elaborate set will delight the youngest playgoers.
Ella, played by Conard senior Mary Looney, said that playing the lead in “Cinderella” is like a childhood fantasy come true. She said she actually cried the first time she put on the beautiful gown created by costume designer Vivianna Lamb. Looney has to go through multiple and complicated costume changes during the show, some in as few as 40 seconds.
“It’s not just Cinderella going through a transformation,” Looney said. “She finds her own voice, and is finally being heard.”
Prince Topher, played by senior Jake Yearsley, is also trying find himself and learn his place in the kingdom. At the beginning of the play, he’s clearly being manipulated by the scheming and sinister adviser Sebastian (Ray Plocharczyk).
Topher is short for Christopher, but in reality the prince has 10 names and hates hearing them all. His character is misunderstood, and as the show progresses experiences tremendous personal growth, ultimately taking the “reign” into his own hands.
Yearsley played Uncle Fester in Conard’s 2016 production of “The Addams Family.” “I really see myself in both roles even though they are polar opposites,” he said. What’s tough about playing Topher is that he’s more normal. “He’s a good guy in a bad situation,” Yearsley said.
“I’m really used to playing funny characters,” said Plocharczyk, but Sebastion is “very sinister and manipulative,” rather than flamboyant.
The show’s craziness belongs to the “fairy godmother” (aka “Crazy Marie) played by senior Zoe Schaefer who was Wednesday in last year’s “Addam’s Family.” Marie’s role is prevalent throughout the story. “She’s always messing with the townspeople, but really she literally wants to help,” Schaefer said.
The challenge to playing Marie is that she’s very motherly. “I’m not a mother, and it’s difficult because I’ve never really taken care of anyone,” she said. As the audience will learn, her mothering skills are life-changing for Ella.
The wicked stepmother is played by Lila Goldstein, a veteran of Conard musical productions who was the grandmother in the “Addams Family” last year and said she enjoys playing the older characters. “I like this role, it’s very interesting but not at all the kind of person I am.”
Goldstein spouts some great one-liners when referring to “my daughters that matter.”
Those two, Charlotte (Delina Bartolomei) and Gabrielle (Janey Lorenzo) are not the classically mean characters in the Disney version of Cinderella.
“I don’t see her as mean. She’s just blunt,” Bartolomei said of Charlotte. “She doesn’t realize what she’s saying … it’s an extreme version of myself.”
Gabrielle really isn’t mean at all, but like Ella needs to learn to escape from her mother’s grip and find her voice. She has a love interest in revolutionary student Jean-Michel (Miles Brown) who tries to inform everyone of what’s really going on in the kingdom. That relationship adds a second major storyline to the show.
Playing a role in that sub-plot is Charlie Uthgenannt’s character of Lord Pinkerton – a “regal” character who is Royal Herald to the palace and the right hand man to Sebastian and Topher.
“It’s going to be a magical show,” said Director Corrine Kravitz.
The spectacularly-complicated set is designed by a professional but built by students, and the pit orchestra, directed by Scott Porter who also serves as co-producer, is comprised exclusively of students.
Performance dates and times are:
- Friday, March 10 at 7 p.m.
- Saturday, March 11 at 7 p.m.
- Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m.
- Friday, March 17 at 7 p.m.
- Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and children. Aadvance purchase online at www.conardhighschoolmusical.com is recommended to ensure availability. If any tickets remain they will be sold at the door. There are a limited number of wheelchair accessible seats.
All performances will be held in the Conard High School auditorium, 110 Beechwood Rd., West Hartford, CT.
Any questions can be directed to Anne Coon at [email protected].
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!