Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cinder Edna: A World Premiere at Olympia Family Theater

Cinderella’s (Ingrid Pharris Goebel) coach arrives to take her to the ball. Photo by David Nowitz.

What a feat! What a coup! For the second time Olympia Family Theater is presenting a world premiere musical written by a local playwright. And it is fabulous!

Playwright and composer Ted Ryle adapted the play from the children’s picture book by Ellen Jackson. Guitarist Rich Sikorski, composer Miriam Sterlin and Ryle’s daughter Mandy Ryle all pitched in to help with the music.

Ryle says the project began more than 15 years ago when he and his wife, Jen (OFT co-founder) read the book Cinder Edna to their daughters, who are now all grown. It is a labor of love pulled together with a Kickstarter campaign and the help of many dedicated Olympia theater folk.

The favored son, Prince Randolph, (Xander Layden) can't imagine anyone finer than himself. Photo by Dinea DePhoto.
The story is about Cinderella’s next door neighbor, Edna, who, like Ella, is a maid. But there’s a big difference between the two young women surviving degrading servitude and poverty. While Ella (Ingrid Goebel) is a self-pitying whiner who cries a lot and dreams that someday her prince will come, Edna (Carolyn Willems-Van Dijk) is a go-getter, an entrepreneur who bakes and sells casseroles and revels in telling jokes that are as silly as they are funny. And there is more than one prince, oh yeah. Prince Randolph (Xander Layden) is the most narcissistic character since Narcissus himself. He prances and preens and spends a whole lot of time looking at his most gorgeous reflection in the mirror. Prince Rupert (Harrison Fry) is the misfit in the royal family. He runs a recycling business, wears clothes pieced together from recycled materials and loves puns. And he may be the only person in the kingdom who thinks Edna’s jokes are funny.

Now matter how hard Cinder Edna's (Carolyn Fry) stepsisters (Meghan Goodman and Priscilla Zal) try, they just can't seem to make her life miserable. Photo by Dinea DePhoto.
Everyone knows what happens when Ella goes to the ball. What’s not quite so well known is that Edna also goes to the ball, and she meets and falls in love with Prince Rupert.

It is a delightful children’s story played for adult laughs too with lots of topical humor and with 23 original songs, mostly done in styles reminiscent of pop songs from the 1950s, played by a six-piece band which provides scene transitions with perfectly-chosen pop standards like “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” and the wedding march at just the right moment.

Kate Ayers’ direction is spot-on. The set by Jill Carter is and gorgeous, with beautifully painted backdrops marvelously bathed in pastel colors — magical lighting also designed by Carter.

Cinder Edna (Carolyn Fry) and Prince Rupert (Harrison Fry) discover a true happy ending doesn't require uncomfortable footwear. Photo by Dinea DePhoto.
Goebel and Willems-Van Dijk turn in outstanding performances as Ella and Edna. They’re both good comic actors and both sing well — and nobody cries like Goebel. Fry and Layden each make their characters absurdly believable.  

In supporting roles, Amanda Stevens and Priscilla Zal stand out. Stevens, who plays the queen and the fairy godmother and other roles has a great voice, and she achieves haughtily disdainful looks with style. Zal plays the voice and puppeteer for a smart-alecky parrot, and her expressively screechy parrot voice is hilarious.

Cinder Edna is a show for children and adults that fits beautifully in the intimate space of the Washington Center’s black box but could play equally well on a major stage. I can imagine it being a hit at Seattle’s 5th Avenue or Paramount. I’d love to see it go forward to productions in other venues, but don’t wait for that to happen. See it now while you can. You’ll love it.

Performances May 30 and 31 at 7 and 9 p.m. and June 1 at 1, 3, 4:30 and 6 p.m., The Washington Center, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia. Tickets online at http://olyft.org/tickets/ or at the box office. 360.753.8586

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