Review by Nadya Ellerhorst, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
The clock strikes 7:30. Audience members and cast members alike rush to their respective seats and places, as a soft, spellbinding glow illuminates a star-bedecked stage. The stage lights slowly brighten, and the magic begins in Mariemont High School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s take on the universal tale first appeared as a made-for-TV musical in 1957. In 2013, following numerous television reboots starring the likes of Ginger Rogers, Bernadette Peters, and Whitney Houston, the musical made its way to the Broadway stage, pumpkin carriage and glass slippers in tow. The plot closely mirrors the classic story, but Rodgers and Hammerstein add more complexity to the beloved fable with a considerate stepsister, an impending revolution, and a power-hungry Lord Chancellor.
Mariemont High School’s “Cinderella” was nothing short of enchanting, featuring a bewitching cast and plenty of magic. Standouts included the title character, Ella, performed by Chloe Shenton, and the giant-slaying Prince Topher, played by Jacob Cox. Shenton’s Ella retained her radiant, heart-of-gold disposition throughout the show, despite the plot’s many ups and downs, and was captivating from the very first musical number. Cox’s well-meaning Topher was the epitome of a Prince Charming, showing genuine courtesy to all those around him, and the duo had a dazzling chemistry, especially in their touching ballroom duet of “Ten Minutes Ago.”
Another noteworthy performance was Benny Mitchell as Topher’s scheming advisor, Sebastian. With his stuffy, courtly manner and profuse humor, Mitchell was the architect for the majority of the laughs, despite being the musical’s principle baddie. Gabby Tollefsen and Shannon Renner as Gabrielle and Charlotte, Ella’s vivacious stepsisters, offered unforgettable portrayals of their characters’ contradictory temperaments. Tollefsen’s delightful performance as the sympathetic Gabrielle made for yet another lovable heroine, and Renner’s Charlotte, a pure fireball of romantic hopelessness, instigated a myriad of laugh-out-loud moments. The show’s vast ensemble also deserves acclaim. Whether they were daydreaming, attempting to incite a revolution, waltzing at a ball, or all-out fangirling over Prince Topher, the ensemble never lost a drop of their contagious enthusiasm, even when some of its members faced the sorrow of not fitting into Ella’s glass slipper. Although character’s lines were sometimes overpowered by the orchestra, and despite occasional mic failures, every cast member did a magnificent job of staying true to their character for the entirety of the production.
The show simply wouldn’t have been complete without its stage and light crews. Set pieces were moved on and off the stage in a quick, efficient manner that would make even the most seasoned fairy godmother envious. Additionally, the lighting done by Avery Brinkman and the show’s crew must be applauded. From the gleaming stars projected on the sides of the stage, to the use of warm yellow to signify an autumn afternoon and radiant blue to illustrate a nighttime ball, the lighting did much to make the fairytale world come alive.
When the clock struck 10, and Mariemont High School’s delightful rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” came to a close, even though no one came to the show in an enchanted pumpkin carriage, all left with an enduring sense of magic and wonder.
Review by Victoria Childers, Roger Bacon High School Cappies Critic Team
Mariemont High School’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella was fit for a princess. The modern take on the classic fairytale was a royal success, and the theatre magic didn’t vanish once the clock struck midnight. The brilliant work of Mariemont’s publicity team, theatrical performers, and technical team drove forth the enchanting themes of magic and kindness that allowed Cinderella to shine.
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a modern take on the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale we all know and love. The enchanted version of the originally written for television musical updates the story, exploring social and political themes, while keeping in mind the romance and kindness at the heart of the show.
The publicity team for Cinderella went above and beyond to spread the word about their production. The task of intriguing people to see a high school production can be daunting, especially when you’re fighting the preconceived notions the public has about a show like Cinderella . The students took this challenge head on. Like most other high schools, they began with small tasks such as making posters and signs for the show, but this was only the beginning. They broke down some of the conceptions of what Cinderella is by touring local grade schools. Select scenes such as Ten Minutes Ago were performed by the cast to generate interest in a young audience. The team also wanted to express the importance of kindness that is prevalent in Cinderella through their work. They set up an event at a local library where performers would volunteer to read books and color with kids in character.
Such a heartwarming event displayed what Mariemont believes Cinderella is truly about.
As publicity was hard at work getting people in seats, the actors and actresses were hard at work perfecting the vocal and dance heavy show. Strong musical performances by leads Chloe Shelton and Jacob Cox who played Ella and Topher respectively were divine. Their wonderful harmonies reinforced their believable onstage chemistry. Featured dancers created a magical atmosphere that made the prince’s ballroom come to life. Their beautifully graceful moves directed attention to the leads without compromising personality or style.
While many of the featured dancers reflected the spotlight, the Fox/Footman and Raccoon/Coachman stole the stage with their playful antics. The difficult technical elements of their choreography were masterfully executed and delightful to watch. Overall, the the dedication and talent that exuded from the entire cast of Cinderella made the show come to life.
The spectacular performances by the cast were highlighted by the work of the technical team. Mariemont’s tech team literally made the magic of Cinderella happen. Their work helped the production seamlessly flow from ordinary to extraordinary. Quick scene changes kept the plot moving, while placement and utilization of props made the world of Cinderella come to life. The real stars of the crew were the students working with the lights. The light crew professionally overcame obstacles they faced with equipment as time before the show pressed on. They were able to utilize shades of blue, pink, and purple to reflect the dreamy, romantic mood of the show. Sudden pops of color such as the bright pink during the kiss between Gabrielle and Jean-Michel were cheeky moments that aided character development in an indirect way. Without the dedication and professionalism of the technical team, Mariemont’s production of Cinderella wouldn’t have the sparkle and charm that captured its audience.
Mariemont High School’s performance of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella was truly magical! Like Cinderella, the cast and crew proved that with a little bit of magic, hard work, dedication, and kindness dreams can come true.
Review by Izzy Moses, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
Along with the spectacle of transformation, the true wonderment of Mariemont High School’s production of Cinderella was that it was full of heart. With the production’s hard work, they were able to reveal the always relevant theme, that kindness and loveliness go hand in hand.
Cinderella is arguably the most well-known fairytale, with hundreds of different versions spanning across the world. Although each version creates its own special twist on the story the world knows and loves, the themes of imagination, perseverance, and genuine kindness have always been trademarks of what the story represents. Mariemont High School was able to keep this important storytelling aspect intact, while making the show their own through both technical features and enchanting performances.
Embodying the very kindness that Cinderella has represented for decades was Chloe Shenton as Ella. Shenton was both lovely and likable in her role, especially in her genuine delivery of songs like “In My Own Little Corner” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” alongside Jacob Cox as the dashing Topher. Cox shone beside his leading lady with impressive vocals and princely mannerisms.
Meanwhile, the supporting and featured cast had notable moments in the show as well. Emilia Ranalli was delightfully malicious in the infamous evil stepmother role of Madame. Portraying the goofily charming stepsister, Gabrielle, was Gabby Tollefsen, who hammed up her performance with exaggerated hand gestures. Following the Cinderella story’s notorious makeover trope was Anna Eberlein as crazy woman turned fairy godmother, Marie. Eberlein not only demonstrated a lovely vocal range in “Impossible,” but also acting range as she switched from the “Crazy Marie” to the eccentrically magical fairy godmother.
The costumes and make up were a wonderful feature of the production’s technical side of things. In a story where numerous ball-worthy hairstyles were required, the hair and makeup team did a splendid job of creating variety in hairstyle. The publicity and marketing team took matters into their own hands as they conducted a series of tours to elementary schools, where the cast would perform highlights.
Mariemont High School’s production of Cinderella made it “A Lovely Night” full of spectacle, transformation, and a powerful message. The show was not only visually beautiful to watch, but the heart and hard work put into it was evident, which is something that the character Cinderella herself would approve of.
Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews
“Chloe Shenton as the sweet Ella and Jacob Cox as earnest Prince Topher combined undeniable chemistry and vocal savvy to perform truly spellbinding numbers such as “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Loneliness Of Evening.” Shenton also proved a mastery of the iconic role as she flawlessly executed not one, but two instantaneous dress changes before the Ball and Banquet scenes in between scenes where every note she sang brought to life all the excitement and angst of young love.”
-Allyson Standley, Walnut Hills High School
“The magical atmosphere of the show was also supported by the beautiful sets, perfectly transporting the audience to the castle and forests of their childhood imaginings. Costumes also were essential to this fairytale, with beautiful gowns and dresses, especially the flawless transition of Ella from her commoner clothes into the fairy godmother’s golden gown. Lighting designed by Avery Brinkman helped bring fantasy into the story as the landscape and magical effects were conveyed with the use of light.”
-Allison Huffman, Seven Hills School
“The entourage supporting the two leads were equally superb. The political revolutionary Jean-Michel, played by Lucas Wilner, and Gabby Tollefsen as Ella’s stepsister Gabrielle made for a delightful couple that complemented Ella and Topher. Benny Mitchell’s Sebastian consistently cracked jokes that always ended in laughter. Sebastian’s ignorance to the problems of the townspeople also propelled the conflict while keeping the tone light-hearted.”
-Caitlin Boutwell, Ursuline Academy
“Despite some issues with the sound elements of the show, the other technical elements of Mariemont’s production did not disappoint. Utilizing every open space of their small-sized theater, the cast and crew extended the show beyond the stage, invigorating chase scenes and creating a more involved environment. Publicity, hoping to outwardly express the theme of kindness found within “Cinderella,” had several projects on the side of the show to brighten their communities. One project included going to a local library and setting up a time slot to read the “Cinderella” story to kids and color with them while in character. Through this project and a few others, the publicity team perfectly expressed the thoughtfulness of Cinderella’s spirit.”
-Nicole Magliocco, Ursuline Academy
“Benny Mitchell, playing the Prince’s royal adviser Sebastian, had the audience in stitches with his masterful comedic timing and charismatic stage presence. The stepsisters, played by Gabby Tollefsen and Shannon Renner, were equally enjoyable to watch and maintained impressive characterization even when they had no lines.”
-Naomi Stoner, Walnut Hills High School
“The sets were excellent, and the costumes were dazzling. One particular set piece that was truly wonderful was the pumpkin-turned-carriage in which Ella arrives to the ball. The stage crew was quick and seamless as they moved in set pieces. Although there were a few sound issues, the crew was quick to fix them, and the cast took them in stride.”
-Elayna Webb, Larry A. Ryle High School
“Furthermore, Mariemont’s production also had great supporting roles and ensemble members that contributed a lot to the show. Marie, played by Anna Eberlein, used her elegance and poise to showcase a motherly role in Ella’s life as her fairy godmother. Shannon Renner played Charlotte, one of the stepsisters. Renner put a humorous and light-hearted spin on what is thought to be a villainous character. The featured dancers were high-energy on stage and added a lot to musical numbers with their cohesiveness and unique talents.”
-Loghan Currin, Simon Kenton High School
These reviews also appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website.