The message in the “Cinderella” story is that kindness prevails. There’s also a lesson in not being too quick to judge based on appearances, as the title character may be a commoner, but her personality, true beauty and inner grace make her a princess.
In Trollwood Performing Arts School’s current production of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” McKenna Brye fits the part like, well, a glass slipper.
Petite in stature, she delivers big in the title role, with a vibrant voice, a bubbly stage presence and a radiant smile. Little girls in the crowd wore princess dresses but Brye lived it onstage. From her theme, “In My Own Little Corner,” to the dreamy “He Was Tall,” she’s earned her spot in the recent string of strong leading ladies at Trollwood. While she may not look like your standard princess in central casting, like Broadway star Krisitin Chenoweth, she proves big talent can come in small sizes.
Brye was cast to play the role last year when Trollwood postponed the whole production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She went off to Oklahoma City University to study musical theater and vocal performance and the extra training shows on the stage. She did a great job splitting the limelight and roles in 2019’s “Freaky Friday,” but she’s perfectly comfortable taking the spotlight as she showed Thursday night.
Taking the spotlight away from the other performers in this show is a tall task.
Logan Lang is, well, charming, as the prince. When he sings “Loneliness of Evening” you understand that he rules not just by the sword, but by his warm tenor.
If Brye shines, Avery Hoffman dazzles as the fairy godmother, Marie, continually getting the biggest applause, once even as she just walked on stage. Of course, it’s her magic that makes the story possible, but her voice is just as enchanting. Her performance of “There’s Music in You” very much deserved the applause.
The song was one of a handful that wasn’t in the original 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein production, but added later. It was an all but forgotten tune from their “Main Street to Broadway” but was brought back to life when Whitney Houston sang it in the 1997 version of “Cinderella.” That’s the thing that falls short in this show. The performances of songs are fantastic, but the material itself isn’t very memorable. The original version was only 70 minutes long, so other songs were added through the years and four songs get reprises throughout the show. “Now is the Time” was cut from “South Pacific” and now we know why. Even Lang’s impressive performances can’t keep Prince Topher’s big numbers, “Loneliness of Evening” and “Me, Who Am I?” from seeming like filler. This show just doesn’t have great numbers for the male singers.
Longtime Trollwood director Michael Walling keeps things moving at a steady pace and gets the most from those around him.
Choreographer Michael Estanich delivers some fun with a couple of big ensemble numbers, first showing off folk dance influences on “The Prince is Giving a Ball/Now is the Time.” It’s the ball itself where the choreography really lets the dancers kick their heels up.
Of course, the ball is as much about the dresses as the dances and costume designer Travis Chinick creates regal gowns. It may be the fairy godmother’s magic that allows Cinderella to attend the ball, but Chinick provides the theater magic as she spins her rags into elegant outfits.
Even the wicked stepmother and stepsisters get stylish treatment from Chinick and hair and makeup designer Aria Durso. Gabrielle Mowery relishes in the cruelty of Madame so well that you can't turn away and Avery Moxness is adorkable as the likeable step-sister, Gabrielle. Macy Scharmer is the most memorable as the brassy and bratty Charlotte as she stomps around the stage, her presence as fearsome as her odd updo.
She also gets one of the best numbers with “Stepsister’s Lament,” wondering how the Prince didn’t pick her at the ball. Her cattiness is amplified by a chorus of the ladies of the court as they mix in contemporary dance moves and poses, a smart depiction of what today would be a bathroom bitch session.
While the music may not be all too memorable, the performances were indelible. It was great to see an outdoor Trollwood production again, on a nice evening with no bugs or wind to disrupt a show. It all called to mind another, better known Rodgers and Hammerstein song, “Some Enchanted Evening.”