'Cinderella' set to enchant at Peoria Players

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Put a timeless and classic fairy tale in the capable hands of Mary Ellen Ulrich and magic is bound to happen.

That’s why it’s fitting that she direct the enchanted version of “Cinderella,” which opens Friday at Peoria Players Theatre.

“Oh, yeah, this one is right up my alley,” Ulrich said. “I always love to do the family friendly shows that have kids in it and ‘Cinderella’ certainly is that, though I would have liked for even more kids in it. But it has been fun.”

Any more, when one hears that a theatre is producing “Cinderella,” it is being done by a children’s theatre group. But one of the things that appealed to Ulrich when offered the show was that she would be able to cast it with age-appropriate performers to give it what she believes is the true feel of the show.

“I love doing this show with adults in the adult role. It’s great being able to have a wide range of ages in the cast. That’s the way it should be done,” Ulrich said just before the start of a dress rehearsal. “And I have been blessed with a very talented, and very fun, cast.”

“Cinderella,” for those who lived under a rock during their childhood, is the fairy tale about a young lady by that name who lives with her wicked stepmother and equally wicked stepsisters. Because her father has passed away, Cinderella has become a slave to the other women, expected to clean up after them and answer to every one of their whims.

When the village becomes excited by the news that the handsome young prince is going to have a party to meet all if the eligible young ladies in the kingdom, Cinderella is told by her stepmother she cannot attend. Besides, she has nothing to wear.

Enter the Fairy Godmother, who grants Cinderella her wish and that’s where the magic occurs: The mice in her home become her drivers and attendants when a pumpkin is made into a carriage and Cinderella transforms from a lass in dirty rags to a beauty in a gown in a mere puff of smoke.

Cinderella attends the ball, meets the prince and they immediately fall in love. But Cinderella doesn’t heed the Fairy Godmother’s warning to be home by the stroke of midnight and when that hour arrives, everything reverts to their original state.

Not to worry; Cinderella left behind a glass slipper and the prince goes around the village looking for his princess. When he tries it on the disheveled Cinderella, the shoe fits and she is instantly transformed back into the beauty in a gown and they live happily ever after.

Songs from this version of “Cinderella” include “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible,” “Fol-De-Rol,” “Ten Minutes Ago,” The Stepsisters Lament,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful.”

Mary Rose Williams portrays Cinderella while Tyler Smith is the prince. Ulrich has directed both before, including giving Smith his first role when he was 9 years old, and knows what each is capable of. “They are wonderful is this show. I couldn’t be happier,” she said.

Lisa Burnett is the stepmother and her wickedness grows as the show moves on. The stepsisters are portrayed by Susan Hazzard and Katy Ailshie and their interaction with each other is hilarious. “They really are a hoot together. I’ve been directing the two of them since they were freshmen in high school and I knew when I cast them they would be funny,” Ulrich said.

Anita Rowden is funny and charming as the Fairy Godmother who has seen pretty much everything but can't resist granting Cinderella's wish.

The king and queen are portrayed by Bill Barr and Julie Simmons, respectively and Colin Evers is Lionel, the prince’s right-hand man.

The ages of the 55 cast members ranges from 7 to over 60 and many are veterans of community theatre stages in the Peoria area. Several of them, Ulrich said, are used to playing lead characters, “but they weren’t worried about that here. They just wanted to be part of this show and I love it.”

Ulrich said this show is typical of others she has directed in that they are several family units involved. In fact, there are nine in this show, including her own granddaughter making her stage debut. Ulrich’s son Jimmy choreographed the show.

Kari Kaps is music director.

Ulrich said she wants audiences to simply sit back, reminisce a little and enjoy the show. “It’s the age-old fairy tale we all grew up with,” she said.

Shows times are 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 13, 14, 18, 19, 20 and 21 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 15 and 22. For tickets call the Peoria Players box office at 688-4473 or visit www.peoriaplayers.org.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).