If rehearsals are any indication, then Liberty Middle School's production of "Getting to Know ... Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" ought to be terrific.
"The kids are right on target with their progress for this show and are very excited about it," said Theater Director Jody Scott. "We love rehearsals because their character development comes out. The tender parts are very sweet and we crack up at the funny ones."
PERFORMANCES ARE Thursday-Friday, Feb. 22-23, at 7 p.m. each night, and Saturday, Feb. 24, at 2 and 7 p.m., in the school lecture hall. Tickets are $5 and go on sale Feb. 16, outside the cafeteria, from 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m.
The musical features a cast of 40 and crew of 15, and the students began working on it in November. "I've got some terrific tech kids, too, and they'll be so busy," said Scott.
In one number, she said, "30 chorus members come on stage with food, and the tech kids have to keep up with it. And this is a multiple-set show, with interiors and exteriors, so they won't have a moment's rest. I also have very responsible stage and assistant stage managers."
Scott said the show contains some really nice singing and dancing, and "the audience is going to love the love story between Cinderella and the prince. But the two stepsisters could steal the show because they're so comical. And two of the heralds are funny, too, with their slapstick comedy."
In addition, she said, "The godmother isn't a fairy godmother, but instead guides Cinderella to make her own decisions and not depend on someone else to make them for her."
Sage Coury, 13, portrays Cinderella. She auditioned for the role and says she "would have been happy with any part," but loves doing this one. "Cinderella's very sweet, kind of shy, and just goes with the flow," said Coury. "She's looking for her true love, but doesn't get a chance to find him until she goes to the ball."
Coury is having fun with the role and enjoys all the rehearsals and costumes. "I don't usually play this sort of shy character, but I love all the songs she sings, especially 'In My Own Little Corner,'" she said. "She's imagining what she could be. But she doesn't think she'll ever become any of those things she dreams of being. I love acting out the things she's imagining while singing."
ALTHOUGH SHE usually plays characters with more attitude, said Coury, "I'm so happy that I'm a seventh-grader and I got this part. And I love being with all the other [actors]. I think the audience will enjoy the show because we all have so much fun performing it."
Playing Cinderella's godmother is eighth-grader MaryKate Goff. "She's helpful, wants Cinderella to be happy and will do anything for her," said Goff. "It's fun because I'm not used to playing people who are so sweet — I'm more sarcastic — so it's a stretch for me."
She also likes singing the song, "Impossible." In it, she said, "The godmother tells Cinderella that, although the things you want may not happen, if you work for them, they might." Goff says the audience will also like the stepsisters "a lot, because they're really funny."
One of them, Joy, is portrayed by Merrill Holmes, 12. "She's really depressed, not very cheerful and always negative," said Holmes. "I love this role because you get to get mad at the slightest thing and show your anger."
Holmes and Franki Castellano, as the other stepsister, Portia, sing the appropriately named tune, "Stepsisters." Said Holmes: "It's about how they're jealous of Cinderella and how she gets the Prince and we don't. We think he shouldn't want all the good traits she has."
When asked what the audience will especially like about this musical, she replied, "What's not to like? We have a really good director who cast the show well."
Eighth-grader Anna McKittrick is the stepmother, and she auditioned for this particular role. "I like to be the villain because I'm [normally] more reserved and quiet, and it's fun to be a totally different person on stage," she explained. "I've loved acting for a long time. I like being a commanding personality and this is a perfect part."
Many times, the stepmother is portrayed as evil but, in Rodgers and Hammerstein's version of the Cinderella story, she's more self-absorbed. "Instead of being mean to Cinderella, she only looks at her when she needs some work done," said McKittrick. "And she overlooks her daughters' faults."
Overall, she said, "There's plenty about this show for all ages to enjoy. "We have a lot of talent and great singing voices, and the costumes and scenery are coming along really well."
Seventh-grader Charlie McCullough plays Prince Christopher. "His mother wants him to get married, but he doesn't want to, right now," said McCullough. "He wants to find and marry someone he loves, and his father agrees with him."
While not thrilled about "having to wear ridiculous things," McCullough's pleased to have a main role. "I've never played royalty before; in the last play, I killed people," he said. "Here, I sing a love song called 'Ten Minutes Ago.' The prince has never been in love before, and he's feeling these weird feelings he didn't have 10 minutes ago, when he met Cinderella."
REAL-LIFE TWIN Nicholas Cole, 13, plays a twin herald, and his brother Mitchell portrays the king. Nicholas presents news to the kingdom and tries on Cinderella's slipper on the girls in the kingdom. "In some scenes, we're clumsy and funny, and in others, we're serious, so it goes from one extreme to another," he said. "And the show's character development is great."
As king, Mitchell is "fat and greedy, kind of old and sometimes grumpy" but, he said, "Most of the time I'm funny, especially when I'm arguing with my wife." He says the audience will enjoy the musical because "it's a fairy tale everyone knows."
Playing his wife, the queen, is Jen Pistole, 14. "She's enthusiastic and really wants things to go her way," said Pistole. "But she's very loving so, if the prince doesn't meet someone at the ball, she'll let him try to find his love, himself. It's hard being annoyed at the king because I also love him. But the best part is just being on stage and among friends. We worked really hard [on the show] and I think it's going to be a hit."
Courtney Jennelle, 13, plays the palace chef who prepares the food for the ball. "I get to sing four solos in one song, 'Your Majesties,' telling the king and queen what's on the menu," she said. A member of the school choir, Jennelle said, "I love singing; I've been doing it since I was 2."
Seventh-grader Alexis Acar portrays a singing herald who announces the prince's ball. "I'm supposed to be very serious and proper," said Acar. "I like my part because, without the herald, Cinderella wouldn't know about the ball, the slipper would never get on her foot and there'd be no story."
As for the show's crew, stage manager Paige Spencer, 14, makes sure each prop is in the right place and that no one takes someone else's prop by mistake. She also helps Scott make sure the actors are where they need to be.
"Since I also like acting, I can relate to what everyone's doing," said Spencer. "It's a lot of responsibility and you have to be very organized and in tune with what's going on around you."
Assistant stage manager is Adrienne Rector, 13. "I make sure everyone comes on and off stage at the right time and I help Paige with the props," she explained. "It's awesome; I love working with people, and I also get to watch the play unfold, so it's really cool." And even though she's too shy to act, she said, being on the tech crew enables her to still be part of a production.
Eighth-grader Andrew Bongardt is in charge of the microphones, music and speakers. "I coordinate lights and sound for scene changes," he said. "I enjoy it because I like technology and computers, and we use a light board, a mixer board and an array of wires."
It usually takes three or four hours to set up everything, tape down the wires so no one trips and put up all the speakers. But that's OK, said Bongardt, because "I get to play with really expensive toys — a $7,000 sound system."