Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Cinder Edna returns to Olympia Family Theater

Olympia Family Theater brings back a local legend
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano

from left: Justin Valdez as Prince Rupert and Mandy Ryle as Cinder Edna, photo by Alexis Sarah
Olympia Family Theater premiered Cinder Edna five years ago, almost to the day, and now they’re bringing it back with some revisions and a larger cast. A local actor not involved in either production called it a legend and wondered if it was too soon to bring it back. I think not. I think the time is just right.
Based on the children’s picture book by Ellen Jackson and adapted for the stage by local actor and writer Ted Ryle, with music by Ryle and Miriam Sterlin and arrangements by Mark Thome, Cinder Edna offers a wise modern version of the Cinderella story that, among other delightful twists, points out that marrying a prince might not be the best thing a young maiden can aspire to.
from left: Mark Alford as Prince Randolph and Mandy Ryle as Cinder Edna, photo by Alexis Sarah
Cinder Edna (Mandy Ryle) is Cinderella’s next-door neighbor. Both are poor step children who slave for their heartless step mothers (who, in this modernized version of the fairy tale spend all their time on their cell phones as do their other daughters). That’s where the similarity ends. Unlike her pitiful neighbor, Cinder Edna is a budding young entrepreneur who cooks delicious dishes and sells them, with the cooking and the sales transpiring behind her clueless step mother’s back. While Cinderella (Corissa DeVerse) wears her glass slipper’s and a beautiful gown to the Prince’s ball, transported in the magical pumpkin coach (a sweet nod to magical tradition), Cinder Edna wears a sensible dress and loafers and catches a bus to the ball.
And there are two princes, one for each of the Cinders. Prince Randolph (Mark Alford) is a narcissist in love with his image in the looking glass. Prince Rupert (Justin Valdez) is the practical brother who runs a recycling business.
The arrival of the pumpkin coach — in sections that are danced in by actors — is a magical moment that could rival any big-stage production even though it is simply painted cut cardboard.
There are lines that are hilarious because they are so true, such as when it is pointed out that the glass slipper is just a shoe that would easily fit at least a quarter of the women in the kingdom.
The ensemble cast is great. DeVerse was a great choice for Cinderella. She has an outstanding voice. Valdez is a likeable Prince Rupert. In an amazing range of roles from Johnny in American Idiot at Lakewood Playhouse to Kyle in OFT’s Fishnapped, Alford’s acting ability continues to amaze. He is captivating as Prince Randolph, but this prince is too one-dimensional for an actor of Alford’s statue, and his preening and looking-glass gazing becomes a little too often repeated by the middle of the second act. Other actors in supporting roles stand out, notably Jesse Morrow as Edna’s step sister and Jennifer Cariaso as the fairy godmother. And, of course, there is the title role of Edna, played marvelously by Ryle. She brings this made-up character to life and makes her real, down-to-earth, big-hearted and lovable. And she sings up a storm.
Finally, a big shout-out to director Jen Ryle, choreographer Vanessa Postil, and set designer Jill Carter.
Cinder Edna, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through June 3, $19 adults, $16 military, $13 youth, http://olyft.org/tickets, 612 4th Ave E, Olympia, 360-570-1638.

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