Review by Liz Browning, Colerain High School Cappies Critic Team
Twinkling lights atop a pumpkin carriage, rags twirling into riches, and a prince falling for a peasant were all the “Impossible” that became the “It’s Possible” in Taylor High School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
The beloved tale of “Cinderella” originated in 1634 from Giambattista Basile but was popularized by the Brothers Grimm’s interpretation in 1812. It has since been retold in many different mediums, including the 1950 Disney animation and the 1957 television musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. “Cinderella” tells the story of a young girl, Ella, who is forced to work tirelessly for her demanding stepmother and stepsisters after the passing of her father. Her life is changed when her fairy godmother, Marie, transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary and sends her to the ball, where Ella falls in love with Prince Topher. Over the following days, Topher searches for Ella after she flees the ball, and they are finally reunited when her glass slipper fits only her foot perfectly.
The anchor of Taylor’s production was the seamless transition of scenes. There wasn’t a single moment of silence or unoccupied stage due to set pieces being rearranged whilst the current scene was still occurring. The stage crew worked quickly and noiselessly and never distracted from the captivating performance happening downstage of them.
Allie Huston brought depth and imagination to Ella, especially during “In My Own Little Corner,” in which she acted out Ella’s innocent dreams with energetic actions and appropriate expressions. Additionally, Huston had excellent control over her vocal tone and was consistently on pitch. Ella’s heroic prince was played by Ben Wessel who stole the show every time he sang; his natural vibrato and mature tone rang out in pieces such as “Loneliness of Evening.” From a kooky beggarwoman to a sparkling fairy godmother, Emily Brettschneider was outstanding in both facets of her character, Marie; her impressive soprano range was perfectly displayed in “It’s Possible.”
A character that constantly evoked laughter was the impassioned and political Jean-Michel, played by Nick Swope. His wordless actions and expression added humor to the story, especially in a scene where his flowers were thrown back in his face by an annoyed Madame (Bella Winegeart). Both of Ella’s stepsisters brought bratty comedy to the show, particularly Charlotte (Raegen Bass), during “Stepsister’s Lament.” The entire ensemble was the perfect addition to key scenes, such as the ball where one awkward attendee after another attempted to woo and dance with the prince.
The creativity of each crew was exemplified within every scene. The interesting textures used to create the trees made the set appear all the more authentic. The color-changing lights of the backdrop set the mood for the scene, and the use of a clock projection in tandem with the ensemble members’ arms “ticking” made the countdown to midnight very prevalent. There wasn’t a single flaw in the microphones or the playing of the music track, which allowed the actors to perform with ease.
Through the use of romantic light hues, unified and sweet-sounding vocals, and a frequently universal energy, Taylor High School’s production of “Cinderella” was a fairytale from start to finish.
Review by Jane Nalbandian, School for Creative & Performing Arts Cappies Critic Team
The impossible became possible with Taylor High School’s mesmerizing production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “”Cinderella !”Through creatively functional technical elements and exuberant performances, the students of Taylor High School captured the magic of this revamped classic.
This updated take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” has the framework of the classic Cinderella story: a beautiful, kind woman named Ella acts as servant to her evil stepmother and stepsisters until her fairy godmother whisks her away to the prince’s ball.
However, this version of the musical, originally performed on Broadway in 2013, includes additional elements. In this version of the story, Ella is prompted to attend the ball by her revolutionary friend, Jean-Michel , in order to inform Prince Topher that people are suffering in his kingdom. When the crazy town woman, Marie , transforms into a beautiful fairy godmother, Ella’s dreams of going to the ball become a reality. She attends the ball, meets the prince, and runs away at midnight, but not without first informing Prince Topher about the injustices his people are facing. In the end, Prince Topher is able to make changes to the kingdom and find love with the help of the charitable Ella .
The title character was portrayed by the effervescent Allie Huston , who perfectly captured the charm and kindness of the original Cinderella , while also mastering the determination and wit of the newer one. Ben Wessel demonstrated his advanced acting skills through his portrayal of the multifaceted Prince Topher , from his excellent comedic timing to his captivating performance of the romantic classic “Ten Minutes Ago” . Emily Brettschneider also demonstrated great acting and vocal range as she performed the role of Marie , transforming from the town crazy woman to a dazzling fairy godmother. Bella Winegeart and Nick Detzel worked together to create a wonderfully evil duo with their humorous performances of Madame and Sebastian . Finally, Raegen Bass and Lauren Drew , who portrayed the stepsisters Charlotte and Gabrielle respectively, dazzled with their humorous performances.
This show provides many technical challenges like quick set and costume changes, magical transformations, and lots of constantly moving pieces. Taylor High School students rose above these challenges with creative solutions to these problems, from reversible set pieces to creatively crafted props. The stage management and stage crew team, made up of Nick Burley , Eva Ullmann , Lanie Mersch and Anna Becker, had their hands full with a lot of transitions and set pieces. However, they rose above those challenges with excellent organizational skills that helped create quick and smooth scene changes. The lighting design team, made up of Serenity Blakley , Winston McKinney , and Brandon McCollum , also added some magic to this show with beautiful spinning lights during the magical transformations.
Taylor High School truly captured the wonder in this classic story. Through energetic and polished performances, creative technical feats, and the power of possible, Taylor High School created a truly magical production.
Review by Lucy Lawler, St. Ursula Academy Cappies Critic Team
“Cinderella.” Just hearing the name conjures up a plethora of images and ideas. Sparkling ball gowns, dancing mice, and the perfect pair of glass shoes are just some of the images that come to mind when envisioning the classic tale. But what is the true meaning of the standard rags to riches narrative? Taylor High School answers this question in their lighthearted rendition of “Cinderella.”
Rodger and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” follows the path of Ella , a young girl who has been condemned to a life of servitude at the hands of her stepfamily. After a chance encounter with Prince Topher , Ella dares to dream of a better life; however, her stepmother has other plans. When the prince’s council decides to throw a glamorous ball, Ella finds herself stifled by her stepmother once again. But with the help of a crazed beggar-turned-fairy-godmother, Ella’s “fol-der-ol and fid-dle-dy dee” becomes a chance to not only find true love, but also, to change her kingdom for the better. There’s only one catch: She has to pull it off before the clock strikes twelve.
Breathing new life into an age-old fairytale, Taylor High School’s production of “Cinderella” was certainly one to remember. Complete with glittering carriages and superbly swift quick changes, Taylor never failed to prove that there is no such thing as impossible.
Allie Huston’s skilled portrayal of Cinderella was a definite highlight of the performance. Huston radiated an undeniable air of kindness and intelligence; additionally, her impressive emotional range was never absent in both her singing and acting endeavors. Ben Wessel’s interpretation of Prince Topher also contributed to the musical’s appeal, Striking just the right balance between sincerity and humor, Wessel not only defied the prince’s cookie-cutter stereotype, but also brought his own sense of individuality to the role. Together, these actors created the necessary chemistry to drive the production forward, especially during classic songs such as “Ten Minutes Ago.”
Of course, a princess is nothing without an entourage to bolster her reign. Nick Swope’s lovably dramatic depiction of the rabble-rousing revolutionary Jean-Michel was always able to arouse a laugh. Likewise, Emily Brettschneider’s portrayal of Marie was simply magical. Equipped with a stunning soprano voice and bubbly demeanor, Brettschneider most definitely upheld the dreamlike whimsy that first made Cinderella a classic.
The Taylor High School Drama Department also shone when it came to the show’s complex technical elements. The Lighting Crew, led by Serenity Blakley, never missed a beat. Their talents were especially prominent during “Impossible,” in which dazzling and spinning light sequences were projected to accentuate Marie’s magic. The set design utilized in this production was similarly impressive. Staying true to the story’s emphasis on transformation, many of the beautifully handcrafted set pieces found new functions as the performance progressed. Props also contributed to the show’s ambiance; adorable animal puppets and bouncing pumpkins made the performance all the more magical.
So what is the real message hiding beneath Cinderella’s pomp and frill? Taylor High School provides the answer: with strength and positivity, anything is possible. Even a plain country bumpkin and a prince joining in marriage.
Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews
“The overall production quality was magnificent. The ensemble performed exceptionally well in a variety of musical numbers, the magical costume transformations were simply stunning, and the enchanting sets were divine. The effort the cast and crew put into this show could clearly be seen through their vivacious energy and delicate attention to detail.”
-Anna Nappi, St. Ursula Academy
“Leading the cast was Allie Huston as Ella . Huston had a fiery passion that shown through in her performance, and her commitment to her role was admirable. Huston made effortless transitions from her head to chest voice, all while keeping her beautiful vibrato.”
-Mattie Flynn, Mercy McAuley High School
“When it comes to the technical aspects of Taylor’s production, transformation and functionality were key. As the story clipped along, set changes were quick and seamless, thanks to the stage management crew of Nick Buirley, Eve Ullmann, Lanie Mersch, and Anna Becker.”
-Izzy Moses, Highlands High School
“Allie Huston, who played Ella, was lovely and innocent. She had a lilting voice that shone through the auditorium. She captured the traditional Disney princess persona the world envisions. Ben Wessel, who played Prince Topher, had a regal, demanding presence with a deep voice that rang with vibrato.”
-Shelby Lutz, Colerain High School
“From a technical perspective, Taylor High School’s production was simply excellent. The cyc lights changed colors perfectly in sync with scene changes, so perfectly that the shift was oftentimes not noticeable at first. The beautiful light cues were especially impressive, as lighting designer Serenity Blakley was forced to re-cue everything the day before opening night due to complications with the lightboard.”
-Juli Russ, Highlands High School
“The role of Prince Topher was played by Ben Wessel . He adopted the charm and charisma of the handsome prince and brought new depth to the character. His rich, velvety voice was a pleasant surprise in a high school production. This duo had very believable chemistry which kept the audience wanting more throughout the show.”
-Sarah Schott, Miami Valley Christian Academy
“Others, such as stepsister Gabrielle (Lauren Drew) and town activist Jean-Michel (Nick Swope), offered a comedic subplot to the traditional tale. Following their forbidden love, both actors expressed hilarious outbursts of iconic lines and sticky situations that were evidently integral to the plot twists.”
-Isabella Siska, School for Creative & Performing Arts
These reviews also appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer website.