Singing Cinderella’s Praises
Our Ms. W. delivers the skinny on LionHeart’s latest
Review and photos by Megan Wirts
LionHeart productions is back and better than ever! Head out to the Grant Fine Arts Center this weekend or next weekend to see an incredible show. Under the direction of Ron Jenkins, Cinderella by Rodgers and Hammerstein breathes life onto the stage. The costuming, by head costumer Kathy Jenkins and her crew including Nancy Puff (Cinderella’s dress designer”, Jennifer Chambers, Lori Vandever and Andrea Ott, is spectacular! With magical dress changes happening right before your eyes and some of the cutest little mice you will ever see, the costumes wowed me just as much as the voice of Avery Mills, who plays the kind and lovely Cinderella.
After being away from the stage for two years, LionHeart started off this year with a small scale show in May which won over crowds and showed us that we were all ready for live theater to come back. Cinderella is a brilliant choice for a come back show! The story of a peasant girl treated horribly by her wicked stepmother, played deliciously by Mandy Casebolt, who then turns her life around with her kindness, a little fairy godmother sparkle, finds true love with a handsome prince, defeats evil and good prevails, is a story we all need. It’s a classic that the entire family will enjoy.
I am always amazed at how LionHeart can find such incredible talent among us. Since the very first show they gave us 25 years ago, they have never disappointed. Grant native, David Hatter is back as Prince Topher, the orphaned prince of benevolent parents. Hatter’s voice is on point and his acting chops are just as fantastic. The vocal chemistry between him and Avery Mills as Cinderella will give you goosebumps. Mills is a newcomer to LionHeart productions but not new to the stage. Her resume is impressive but her vocals and ability to convey her emotions is brilliant.
We couldn’t have Cinderella without a fairy godmother and Shaunna Baker brings us a fairy godmother that we all need. She puts a spin on it that is funny, heartwarming and lovable. Her voice is top notch and well worth the price of admission. Of course with every great fairy tale, we need villains. As I said before, Mandy Casebolt is wonderful as Madame, the evil stepmother. Her expressiveness and all the drama kind of makes you love to hate her. Then we have the stepsisters, who may not be as wicked as their mother, but are definitely as dramatically hilarious. Gabrielle is wonderfully played by Monica Schneider and Charlotte is hilariously brought to life by Alicia Cole, whose Stepsisters Lament is one of my favorite numbers in the show. Schneider and Cole bring the sass and their comedic timing is on fire.
The other villain in the show is Sebastian, played by beloved GHS teacher Devon Conley. His portrayal of the corrupt Sebastian who is trying to control the good and kind Prince Topher and take over the kingdom is wickedly good. The scheming between Madame and Sebastian is one of the highlights of the show. Rounding out the main cast is Jamie Evans as Lord Pinkleton and Jarrod Howell as Jean-Michelle. Both LionHeart veterans and Grant natives with great vocals and giving the show more comedic relief. The casting of the show was perfection!
The heart of a musical is its ensemble and this one has great heart. As a community theater LionHeart brings entire families on to the stage sometimes and when you look through this shows program you will see many of the same last names, lots of Schneiders and VanderMeulens, a few Leons, Basses and a couple of Koesters and Casebolts. This is definitely a family affair! The chorus is strong and powerful when they come together for many of the big song and dance numbers. It also contains some of the cutest mice and woodland creatures that will steal the show and your heart.
Behind the stage is where much of the magic happens. LionHeart is an all volunteer theater and many hands help to put on the show. From the pit musicians lead by Cali Rae Flock, the set designer Mike Gesler, the aforementioned brilliant costume designers, to the stage hands and sound and lighting crew, the actors on the stage wouldn’t be able to shine as brightly as they do without them. Being in a small town is a wonderful experience and having a community theater that gives us all magic and joy on stage is a privilege we are all so blessed to have.
Do not miss this show! Tickets are available online at Grant Fine Arts Center Box Office or in person one hour before each show at the box office window. Shows are November 4, 5 and 6 and 11 and 12. Ticket prices are $15 for Adults and $10 for Students and Seniors.
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