‘Cinderella’ a memorable opening to SVCT’s season

SHOW STOPPERS South Valley Civic Theatre’s performance of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” runs through Oct. 26. Photo by Elizabeth Mandel

There’s something about the sheer joy and enthusiasm radiating from a cast of theater kids singing and dancing their little hearts out in a musical that can charm the most seasoned theatergoer.

And the young people who opened South Valley Civic Theatre’s 51st season with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Oct. 5 do a terrific job with a version adapted for pre-high school students. It’s short and energetic, just right for budding princes and princesses (many of whom dressed for the occasion at Sunday’s matinee) who might find their wiggles impossible to contain for a longer show. The Rodgers and Hammerstein score and lyrics are catchy and memorable.

Making his directorial debut at SVCT, Daniel McDonald, assisted by his mother, Susan McDonald, as vocal director, has at his disposal a cadre of young voices who surprise and delight at nearly every turn. His Cinderella, Riley Brown, has a big voice and a natural ease on the stage that wasn’t shaken even by a wardrobe malfunction that might have rattled a less poised performer. She moves easily from the mistreated yet plucky servant to her stepmother and snobbish stepsisters (“In My Own Little Corner”) to the dazzled yet still quick-thinking belle of the ball as the kingdom’s prince falls for her at first sight (“Ten Minutes Ago”). London McWilliams’ Prince Charming has a startlingly warm and appealing voice displayed to best advantage in his duet with his future princess, although he could slow his dialogue-delivery down a tad.

Stealing the show at nearly every opportunity are Angelina Villafranca and Paige DeRosa as Cinderella’s silly stepsisters Portia and Joy. Outrageously dressed in confectionary-colored, beribboned and beruffled gowns that belie their uncouth natures (nose-picking and butt-scratching, indeed), the pair bicker between themselves until they turn their joint sneers toward Cinderella. “Stepsisters’ Lament” and “A Lovely Night” let these two youngsters (13 and 12 years old, respectively) really let loose.

As the Fairy Godmother, Jillian Puente harmonizes beautifully with Brown on “Impossible,” perhaps the show’s most memorable tune.

Elyas Payan as King Maximillian and Ruby Salvatti as Queen Constantina make a charmingly mismatched pair of royals, concerned that their son (who amusingly towers over both of them) is so reluctant to take a bride.

Costume credits go to Kimberly Lynch and Adrianne Wilkinson, who have pulled out all the stops for this show, from the inventive transformation of mice to the horses pulling Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. The program notes that Lynch donated costumes for Cinderella, the Prince, and all tiaras and crowns in memory of her mother, Bobbie.

“Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” continues through Oct. 26 at South Valley Civic Theatre in the Morgan Hill Playhouse, 17090 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill. For information, call (408) 842-SHOW or visit www.svct.org.

Susan Rife
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About Susan Rife
Lover of arts & books; ukulele learner; therapeutic knitter; long-distance runner. Former Arts and Books Editor at Herald-Tribune.