By Jason Wesseldyk
Bibbidi bobbidi boo, Plainwell High School presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of the musical “Cinderella” just for you.
The production opens on Friday, March 25, at 7 p.m., at the Plainwell Performing Arts Center. Performances are also scheduled for Saturday, March 26, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 27, at 2 p.m.
This marks the return of a full musical production on the Plainwell stage for the first time since 2019. The 2020 production of “Into the Woods” was cancelled two weeks before opening night due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the school was limited to a virtual revue of the music from “Dear Evan Hansen” last year.
Plainwell vocal music director Denise Beauchamp said “Cinderella” was the perfect choice for this year’s show given its connection to “Into the Woods.”
“We were robbed of our 2020 production of ‘Into the Wood’ because of COVID and to this day have not had the opportunity to reunite all together as a cast to gain any sense of closure,” Beauchamp said. “That show and that group of kids in particular were so wonderful—talented beyond belief and just the best humans. They were truly a family and many of them are still close today and I think we all still have some open wounds that only time can heal.
“But ‘Into the Woods’ includes part of the classic ‘Cinderella’ story, so I thought it would be a nice homage to our lost show. Plus, so much of the set and costumes could carry over, which was definitely a plus for us.”
Beauchamp said the cancellation of “Into the Woods” has made everyone involved with the “Cinderella” enjoy the experience even more.
“It’s incredible to see the kids back up on the stage,” she said. “Our hearts feel full again. Musical theater in our schools is so incredibly valuable and does so much more for us than simply teach how to sing or act.
“There really are no words to accurately describe how special these past few months of rehearsals have been for all involved. We will never again take for granted these moments and memories in the making.”
Beauchamp can’t wait for the community to see the students’ hard work on display during the three performances of “Cinderella.” And, she adds, the message of “Cinderella” is a fitting one for the times in which we find ourselves.
“The Rodgers and Hammerstein’s II Broadway version of Cinderella that we will be performing is an updated version of a classic fairy tale that has stood the test of time,” she said. “Filled with tons of laughs, catchy tunes and lots of dancing, this version includes an important lesson about kindness at its core. That’s something we could all use a bit more of now more than ever before.”
Kyren Anderson heads up the cast of “Cinderella” as Ella.
Other cast members include: Max Kirgios as Giant; Easton Saurbek as Topher; Becca Wagner as Lady Pinkleton; Ryley Robrahn as Sebastian; Jessica Stevenson as Marie; Lucy Lowis as Jean-Michel; Mia Perrin as Madame; Alayna May as Gabrielle; Maggie McMath as Charlotte; Westin Ramsey as Fox/Footman; Evan Beauregard as Racoon/Driver.
Knights/Townspeople are: Evan Beauregard, Logan Beauregard, J.P. Gazi, Max Kirgios and Westin Ramsey.
Ladies of the Ball/Townspeople are: Kayla Benson, Autumn Norris, Savannah Bowsher, Livy Perrin, Alia Bruey, Ari Rocha, Lily Ferguson, Liz Sanderson, Elizabeth French, Kenzie Shirey, Alexia Meeker, Lillian Templin and Fiona Murray.
“People can expect a fun-loving group of talented student actors and singers who are unbelievably excited to share their passion for live theater with a live audience,” Beauchamp said.
In addition to Beauchamp, who serves as director of “Cinderella,” includes several other PHS teachers and PHS alumni in leadership roles.
Nick Richardson (PHS teacher) heads up the student crew and also takes care of securing sponsorships from local businesses; Austin Hunt (PHS band director) directs the pit orchestra; Keven Badalamente (PHS teacher, Performing Arts Center Director) runs all the lights and sound; Troy Stefl (parent of alumni) designs and builds all the sets; and Lindsey DeVisser (alumni) is in charge of costumes.
“This year we’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have an incredibly talented student choreographer in Ryley Robrahn,” Beauchamp said. “This team has worked together for the past six years—some of us even longer—so it is super enjoyable, as we’ve sort of become a well-oiled machine that just kind of runs itself at this point.”
Tickets for “Cinderella” are available to purchase at http://plainwellschools.ludus.com and will also be available to purchase at the door beginning one hour prior to each performance.