Lexington Children's Theatre has a reputation for presenting top-notch family-friendly drama to Central Kentucky. For the past eight summers, it has taken its usual mission even further with its annual Summer Family Musical.
Not only are these shows geared toward families, they include them.
LCT's current production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella includes seven families, with parent, child, siblings working alongside each other to bring a classic fairy tale to life.
Director Jeremy Kisling deftly marshals more than 30 cast members of all ages, many with multiple roles, in this quirky, enchanting version of the classic fairy tale. Technical magic blends with a refreshing cast of emerging talent to create a light, moving and all-around infectious evening of theater that emphasizes the power of kindness, respect and love, all underscored by Cinderella's intrinsic ties to nature.
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Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, but Rodgers and Hammerstein's version has a few unconventional twists. For instance, Cinderella's fairy godmother will help her only when she becomes determined to help herself. And the love between the Prince (Brian Thomas) and Cinderella might be of the first-sight, written-in-the-stars variety, but they also share feelings of isolation and entrapment in their daily lives, something that brings them together in their brief talk in the garden.
The ensemble cast shares infectious chemistry and even the youngest actors display a penchant for comedic timing. However, no one shines more than the female leads, all of whom were pitch-perfectly cast by Kisling. Becca Drew Emmerich and Erin Wrightson elicit some of the audience's heartiest laughs in their portrayal of the wicked stepsisters Grace and Joy, respectively.
From their sibling quarrels to their hilarious antics when meeting the Prince, the pair are a riot. Kirsten Aurelius' costuming helps, too. Their pink and pinker getups contrast with their money-grubbing mother's deep emerald frock.
Actress Pam McGary sinks her teeth into the mean stepmother's role with conniving relish. It would be a joy to see more of her on area stages. The same goes for Lexington newcomer Erica Becker. She is not the Disney fairy godmother! This fairy wears a quirky outfit, crumpled wings, and a feisty but endearing presence.
Her command of nature — Cinderella's greatest ally — is not so much about hocus pocus as about the power of self-determination combined with imagination.
The chorus of adorably squeaking mice, a cat, a dog — all played by young children — are well choreographed and endearing. One of the show's loveliest moments is when a dove, played by ballet dancer Anna McGary, elegantly leads the Prince and his comrades to Cinderella's home.
And then there is, of course, Cinderella herself. Jennifer Hicks' clear-toned voice is up to the lead role; her demure charm in numbers like The Sweetest Sounds contrasts with the magical awakening of a girl who's falling in love in Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful.
A five-piece orchestra and lush lighting by designer Carolyn Voss put the finishing touches on a magical evening of family fun.
It's a popular show too. I was lucky to snag a single seat to the sold out opening-night performance, which teemed with families and many little girls donning their best crowns and princess outfits.