December is family time at the theater.  I can’t help wondering how many of
the talented performers in Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities’ production of
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella first said to themselves, “That’s what I
want to do!” while attending a Christmas season show.  Certainly, children
exposed to this magical production of R&H’s Cinderella will want to re-
experience musical theater again and again.  

Cinderella director/choreographer Dan Mojica proves once more here why he
is one of our most sought after theater professionals, aided and abetted by a
fine troupe of actors and one of the most brilliantly colorful scenic and costume
designs ever.  With Dennis Castellano leading the 19 piece orchestra, this is a
Cinderella which sounds as good as it looks.

For those unfamiliar with its history, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
began as a 1957 TV production starring Julie Andrews, which was later
remade twice, and engendered this popular stage adaptation.  At just over
90 minutes (including an intermission), this is one show where parents won’t
have to worry about fidgety children, and Hammerstein’s book is funny
enough to please adults.

Nicole Werner is a lovely and warm voiced Cinderella, singing “In My Own Little
Corner.” Her Prince is newcomer Douglas Carpenter, his opera background
evident in his gorgeous singing. The pair duet two of R&H’s most beautiful love
songs, “Ten Minutes Ago,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”  
There is much comic relief in Cinderella, provided by the delightfully over-the-
top Dink O’Neal as the King, nicely matched here with the elegant Tracy Lore
as his Queen.  Broadway vet Heather Lee scores with yet another fine comic
performance as Cinderella’s stepmother, and Annie V. Ramsey and Jessica
Gisin-Mosley are a slapstick treat as Portia and Joy, Cinderella’s not so beautiful
stepsisters. Ramsey and Gisin-Mosley have lots of fun singing the “Stepsisters’
Lament.” David R. Gordon is an amusing Herald, leading the townspeople in
the opening number, “The Prince is Giving a Ball.” Last but not least among
the leads is sassy Lateefah DeVoe, channeling her inner diva as Cinderella’s
Fairy Godmother, and adding fresh pizzazz to “Impossible.”

Aficionados of the waltz and gavotte are sure to be charmed by the elegant
dance sequences choreographed by Mojica, beautifully performed by the as
always outstanding CLOSBC ensemble, headed by dance captain Travis
Davidson, a plus in any production.  Others in the cast are Allison Andreas,
Jennifer Brasuell, Chris Ciccarelli, Laura D’Andre, Merissa Haddad, Kate Lindsey,
Lauren Masiello, Heather Mieko, Shanon Mari Mills, Philip Northington, Jeffrey
Scott Parsons, Chris Redondo, Stephanie Renz, Tristan Rumery, Jason R. Webb,
Heather Nichole White, and the youngest cast members, tykes Brendan Brady
and Austin Kelly.

Two of the biggest reasons for this productions success are uncredited.  
Though this Cinderella is not the Disney version, the spectacular sets are about
as Disney-esque as they come, straight out of one of the master’s classic
animated classics, with the most iridescently vibrant colors you’ll see this or any
season.  Also uncredited are the terrific costumes, with special mention due
the perfectly god-awful gowns worn by Cinderella’s Stepmother and
Stepsisters. I loved every inch of them.  Darrel Clark’s lighting makes the sets’
and costumes’ colors even more dazzling. Also excellent are John Feinstein’s
sound design, and Deanne Johnson’s hair and wigs.  (There’s one particularly
spectacular lighting moment when the stars in the night sky extend from the
stage backdrop over the proscenium to cover the darkened ceiling and walls
of the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, surrounding the audience with
a nightful of stars.)

With concurrently running family musical treats like Yo Ho Ho! A Pirate’s
Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and Anne of Green Gables, children have many
good reasons to experience live theater this holiday season. Rodgers and
Hammerstein’s Cinderella is the best of the bunch for lovers of first class big
stage musical theater, and ends CLOSBC’s 2007 on a high note indeed.

Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.

–Steven Stanley
December 5, 2007
Photos: Alysa Brennan

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