Youth take charge in ‘Cinderella’

Jillian Puente (left) as the Fairy Godmother and Riley Brown as Cinderella star in South Valley Civic Theatre’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Photo: Chris Foster

Riley Brown has gotten a little tired of playing boys in community theater productions, from the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz to Jack in Into the Woods. So she’s thrilled to be able to get her princess on as the title character in South Valley Civic Theatre’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

She auditioned to play either Cinderella or the Fairy Godmother in the classic fairy tale about a young girl who is tormented by a wicked stepmother and haughty stepsisters until she meets a Fairy Godmother who shows her other possibilities.

“I will do this show; I just want to be a girl,” the 13-year-old said in an interview with other cast members, director Daniel McDonald and producer Ingrid Rottman last week before rehearsal. 

The show opens Oct. 5 for a four-weekend run at the Morgan Hill Playhouse.

Brown, a big reader of princess stories, said she “loved the characters who were wanting to be princesses,” especially those who were growing into “more extended versions of themselves.”

McDonald, directing and choreographing the show, said it’s particularly near and dear to him because it was the first show he saw on Broadway. The Rodgers and Hammerstein version is not the familiar Disney animated version; it includes such songs as “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible” and “Ten Minutes Ago.”

“I think the show brings a lot of magic,” he said. 

And, he added, its heroine is not a fragile little flower, but a resilient girl taking control of her own destiny. No waiting around for a handsome prince to rescue her from her cruel stepmother and stepsisters.

“The way we’re doing the show, Cinderella is not passive,” he said. “I think I see that fighting nature in Riley. I think she knows what she wants and knows how to get there.”

“This is a Cinderella who’s going to be able to take care of herself,” said Rottman, who was last seen as Mama Rose in SVCT’s production of Gypsy.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother is played by Jillian Puente, also 13. She sees the role as more like a big sister or aunt to Cinderella, a role model and inspiration to the scullery maid.

“Onstage, I try to see how far I can push her” to take control of her circumstances, said Puente.

Rottman said she “couldn’t ask for a better group of kids,” and praised vocal director Susan McDonald, who is coaxing sounds out of her young singers so they sound like “an angels’ choir.”

Likewise, the costumes, by Kim Lynch and Adrianne Wilkinson, are several notches above what audiences might expect from a teen theater show.

“Everything’s bright colors,” Rottman said.

Susan Rife

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