Durant ISD Choral Department’s musical, Cinderella, opened on Thursday, November 18th. You have three more opportunities to see Cinderella, Friday, November 19th and Saturday, November 20th at 7:00pm and the show closes on Sunday, November 20th at 3:00pm. Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5279133 for $12 and $15 at the door. Student/Children tickets are $5.00. You do not want to miss this visually beautiful show and the outstanding cast, which consists of Durant choir students from the 7th-12 grades.
There have been many variations of the story of Cinderella over the years. In 1957, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella was first aired on television and then again in 1997. In March of 2013, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella made its Broadway debut, with new twists and turns by Tony-nominated playwright, Douglas Carter Beane. The story of Cinderella was originally a French fairy tale published in the 1600’s.
The 1950 Disney cartoon is the most familiar in our minds and hearts, however, the plot has been freshened and updated, but the heroine retains her spirit of generosity. Beane states “Cinderella brings kindness to a court stuck in ridicule.” While reading a translation of the original French fairy tale, Beane discovered the fairy godmother was a beggar woman, shunned by all but the kindly Cinderella. Cinderella’s compassionate nature helps her show the prince the injustice in his kingdom. “The very last line of the French version says, “The moral of the story is beauty is a wonderful thing to find in a woman, but kindness is a much greater gift,” Beane says. “That’s the message I want to get out there.” His ideas worked and the R&H Broadway version was nominated for nine 2013 Tony Awards.
The directors, Aprill Raines, Heather McNeill, , Charlotte Hamil, and Miranda Palmer, along with choreographer, Julie Henderson, have worked diligently for several weeks to bring our community an outstanding musical event. A musical of this magnitude could not be accomplished without a strong, supportive team. This “dream team” is the driving force behind this successful production. Mrs. Raines is the HS director and it is her responsibility to make sure everything gets completed correctly and on time. The district is fortunate to have her at the helm.
When you walk into the auditorium, a beautiful forest backdrop complimented by the pre-show artistic lighting welcomes you. When the lights come up and the overture begins, you will be enchanted by the telling of this old tale. The lighting design added to the overall effect of the show. Darrin Wade, a theatre graduate of SOSU and a gifted professional light designer, designed, programed, and cued the lighting. Aprill Raines, the HS choir instructor, trained her 11-year-old daughter, Sophie Raines to run the light board. Sophie’s sharp mind and artistic eye made it seem like she has been operating a light board for musicals all her life. The sound is a particularly tricky skill to successfully balance the dynamics of the music with the voices of the cast and Joey Gosnell did an admirable job making sure the audience could hear and enjoy the voices. Stage managers, Lydia Raines and Alyssa Kanoff, were instrumental in the coordination of seamless scene changes. They worked in tandem to keep order backstage while quickly changing the scenes with the help of Zachary Jorgenson and Zoey Jones. Father and choir supporter, Paul Lynch, added the extra muscle in helping move larger sets. Ruby Iker and Kinsee Burkett didn’t miss a cue on the spotlights. William Raines has designed and built the sets for the DISD musicals since the inception and he did not disappoint. The set design isn’t fussy or overdone. It is functional for a large cast and appealing to the eye. The clever use of the rotating front porch to fireplace is ideal. The stunning carriage design will just have to be experienced. The carriage construction technique was impressive and Charlotte Hamil’s decorating capabilities completed the overall exquisite design. The costumes were a challenge this year because of material shortages and shipping issues, but Miranda Palmer, with the help of Charlotte Hamil, oversaw all the costume purchases and designs. The costume choices were excellent choices and worked well. The transformation dress is the most impressive costume piece of the show and was designed by Andi Hudson. You will only truly understand the magic of the transformation by witnessing it in-person. Julie Henderson is a seasoned choreographer and has choreographed for the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival’s Children’s Theatre for many years. Henderson’s choreography added the icing on the cake throughout the show. The moves were clean and purposeful.
The smart and beautiful young Ella, portrayed by Kaiten Hudson, lives in the care of her wicked stepmother Madame, played by Haley McNeill and Madame’s two daughters, Charlotte and Gabrielle, portrayed by Chloe Henderson and Katie Fox. Ella’s only friends in the world are the animals in the woods, “Crazy Marie”, played by Cammie Palmer, and the revolutionary student, Jean-Michel, Kenneth St. Clair. Meanwhile in another part of the kingdom, Drew Hamil as Prince Topher, is trying to find himself and learn his place in the kingdom. When his scheming advisor Sebastian, Emma Shelton, suggests throwing a ball so the Prince could meet potential brides, Ella and Topher’s different worlds come together.
The vocal score to Cinderella is beautiful. It doesn’t matter how good the set, lights, or costumes are if the vocal ensemble can’t handle the score, however, the students handled this extensive group of song selections beautifully. The harmony was spot on and the tone was exceptional. The individual voices were also a standout. Kaiten Hudson’s, voice is pure and sweet, which matched perfectly with the kindness of her role, Cinderella. This is Kaiten’s first leading role, and she handled herself with grace and beauty. The innocence and simplicity in In My Own Little Corner was moving. Drew Hamil (Topher) isn’t a stranger to the DHS stage. He first caught the eye of the directors as an 8th grader when he received the role of “Gaston” in Beauty and the Beast and later as “Kerchak”, the leader of the tribe in Tarzan. Topher is a new type of role for Drew and he successfully transitioned to the Prince. Drew’s bass voice is strong with a wide range and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear a beautiful falsetto. Haley McNeill was an excellent choice for “Madame”. She is commanding as the “evil stepmother” and her voice matches the personality of her role. Chloe Henderson and Katie Fox exceptionally play the roles of the stepsisters. The interaction between the two actors is noticeable and enjoyable to watch. Katie portrays the role Gabrielle well and successfully mastered depicting the conflict of her inner kindness and struggle to be true to herself. Chloe Henderson also mastered the self-absorbed characteristic stepsister and her rendition of Stepsister’s Lament is a show-stealing scene. Chloe’s vocal ability easily handled the difficulty of the piece. Cammie Palmer is stunning as Marie. She mastered the voice of the old woman and her transformation to Fairy Godmother is striking. Cammie’s voice tone quality is perfect for this role. The part of Jean-Michel, played by Kenneth St. Clair, was a new role added to the storyline for the Broadway version of Cinderella. He’s a serious guy who believes the government should benefit the commoners as well as the crown. Kenneth’s acting ability is convincing and enjoyable. Kenneth brings an influx of energy every time he comes on stage. (Spoiler alert, Jean-Michel is also smitten with one of the stepsisters). Sebastian and Lord Pinkleton, played by Emma Shelton and Addyson Gaillardet, close the circle of the principal roles. They excellently portray their characters and the dialogue is clearly enunciated and easily understood, which is important to the advancement of the story line. The standout music selection of the show is A Lovely Night, sung by the characters of Ella, Madame, Charlotte, and Gabrielle. The 4-part harmony is stunning and moving. Their voices blend but maintain their individuality. The intonation and tone is truly outstanding.
Overall, this is a show you should not miss. The hours of preparation and the commitment level of the students should be applauded and supported. The Durant ISD choir students deserve accolades and applause. Come cheer them on.
Expect the unexpected in this clever retelling of the beloved fairytale.
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