Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Briar Woods High School Cinderella

By • Jan 24th, 2010 • Category: Cappies

The modern-day princess tends to gravitate towards power lunches over elaborate balls, more dependent on her BlackBerry than any fairy godmother. So a story like Cinderella might have lost its relevance to a generation who would never be caught dead losing a glass stiletto in the middle of a recession and for whom love at first sight is finding a semi-acceptable online dating profile. Nevertheless, with an updated script, the fresh-faced youth at Briar Woods High School attempted to give this classic fairytale an extreme makeover with their interpretation of the whimsical Rodgers and Hammerstein musical comedy.

Julie Andrews starred in the original film of Cinderella, created specifically for television in 1957, several years after Disney’s animated version became a beloved classic. Decades later, a 1997 revised version featuring such greats as Whitney Houston, pop star Brandy, and Bernadette Peters gave the musical a whole new look with a multi-ethnic cast. Yet the legendary tale of Cinderella spans centuries and continents, with various versions of what is essentially the same folk story of love overcoming nearly “Impossible” obstacles.

Resounding through the auditorium with quiet power, the lilting soprano of Katie Bell’s Cinderella enhanced her portrayal of the quintessential dewy-eyed ingénue. Assisting Bell was the charming gait brought on by Brett Stockman as Prince Christopher, their voices meshing well in delicate duets.

Traipsing across the stage with confidence and an arrogant accent, Emily Heyer stood out as the infamous villainess Stepmother, notable for using distinct acting choices that inspired abundant laughter, superseding some lackluster emotion from other actors. Other comic duos included the King (Matt Quist) and Queen (Madeline Moore) for their witty repartee on love and marriage, along with Grace (Carolina Alvarez) and Joy (Lindsay Neimo) making the most of their bratty “Stepsister’s Lament.”

Exquisite dancing executed en pointe by Melissa Hyatt gave Cinderella’s transformation a majestic feel as Hyatt leaped and kicked with perfection, overstepping some underwhelming energy in the rest of the cast. Though humorous moments could crack the audience up, they distracted from the focus in certain scenes and contributed to underdeveloped relationships between some characters.

One minute the stage is set for Cinderella’s small manor house, and then, with a flash of speedy black ninja-like figures, it became the royal castle within seconds. This was due to the remarkable nature of Briar Woods’ stage crew, who with grace and silence carried out each scene change with a well-rehearsed polish that allowed the production to progress quickly and naturally. In contrast loud microphone hisses and squeaks took away from the elegant Rodgers and Hammerstein melodies, adding a few sour notes to the performance.

“Don’t you think this is all just a little medieval?” the Prince remarks insightfully during Cinderella. And he’s right — a saccharine storyline chock full of Prince Charmings and evil stepmothers may be a little too bubbly for 21st century drama queens. But Briar Woods tried valiantly to rescue the damsel-in-distress status of fairy tales in their whimsical production that championed love and kindness — values that will never go out of style.

by Julia Katz of McLean High School

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