Falmouth Footlights Brings Cinderella To Life With Magical Splendor For All Ages

March, 2015

This past weekend’s big screen debut of the new Cinderella may have grossed $70+ million nationwide, but there was another milestone opening of Cinderella that was perhaps more noteworthy—this one by Falmouth Footlights with an original stage adaption that brings the fairy tale to life with abundant doses of magical fun, music and laughter, and family-friendly splendor.

In an unsuspecting location at 190 US Route 1 in Falmouth, just beside People’s United Bank is the home of Footlights, the epicenter for an extremely ambitious group of creative and talented people who consistently mount the widest array of live productions, from standup comedy and radio shows to Agnes Of God, from The Gift of the Magi to, well…Cinderella.

Oh that Michael Tobin is one heckuva clever, hat-wearing Midas when it comes to successfully, effectively—and relentlessly—putting all the pieces together to put out superb examples of local theater. For this show, Tobin has assembled a royal cast of seasoned performers with centuries of collective experience.

While hundreds of variations of Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper have been published since the mid-1600s, Tobin’s adaptation is not a far departure from the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein blockbuster that starred Julie Andrews in 1957. Tobin, who also marvelously directed this piece, condenses the tale without losing an ounce of punch, while throwing some very imaginative updates into the mix, along with hearty twists of schmaltz.

Eat your heart out, Walt Disney! Maura Gwyer IS Cinderella (also not a far departure from Julie Andrews), embodying all the beauty, finesse, singing ability and characterization one would expect from a sensational mythological Princess…just not in Falmouth, Maine. But it’s true, and the kiddos will be cherishing their “I saw Cinderella after the show” stories (and autographs) for years to come.

Mark Calkins is a wonderful and charming Prince Magnus, with just the right blend of airy yet commanding vocals, who perfectly portrays the underdog living under the thumb of the meddling, over-bearing Queen (Gretchen G. Wood…see Local Theater Givens below) and the doting, stoic, long-suffering King (well-executed by Rick Kusturin).

Those ugly step-sisters are sizzling hot. Jaymie Chamberlin is Prunella and Justin Gifford is Grizellda who together portray their classic characters with over-the-top treatment that creates silliness and laughter that will linger long after the final bows. Cindy O’Neil is the “delicious” Evil Stepmother (see Local Theater Givens below).

John Mosley does a terrific job as the diligent assistant to the royal family, an ethereal emcee of sorts, and Kari Presnell is sweet and delightful as the Fairy Godmother.

Stealing the show were performances by The Mice & The Horse, perhaps overlooked by Rodgers & Hammerstein, but certainly and justifiably re-established in this Tobin adaptation…perhaps the result of union contract negations…and certainly to the benefit of the audience.

By special arrangement with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Footlights includes several musical favorites in its show: In My Own Little Corner, Impossible/It’s Possible, Ten Minutes Ago, Stepsister’s Lament, Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful? and A Lovely Night.

Tobin’s set is rich, warm and well-dressed. The sound effects and incidental music add so much to the experience. The costumes are absolutely stupendous (courtesy of Louise Keezer and Lyric Music Theater). The scenes flow quickly and seamlessly. The characters are juicy. The animation is glorious. What’s not to love about this show?

Overheard from audience members during intermission: “The music is perfect,” “The timing is wonderful,” and “I LOVE those Sisters!”

Aside from the professional level of stage skills the cast exudes, the good writing and masterful direction, and the choice of this very popular and timely show, there’s an underlying camaraderie that becomes quite evident once you enter into The Footlights Kingdom. All the players seem unified by their love of theater, the opportunity to release their passion, the chance to hone their skills while having a total blast, and the goal to provide top-notch entertainment for everyone who walks in the door.

Sure, you could see Cinderella now on IMAX, but it’s not real. Seeing Cinderella at Footlights is the ultimate. All 70 seats provide intimate theater-on-demand satisfaction. And you get to experience true-to-life singing and dialogue (sans processed rack effects, naked resonance if you will) and witness every nuance of emotion, facial expression and thought processes by the actors as if you were right there in the scene. The Footlights in Falmouth is the smallest theater that delivers the biggest productions, up-front and personal and in 3D—Without the glasses! Simply magical!

So, if you’re one of those people who enjoy live theater and would love to support such a worthy community arts effort, here’s your chance. In the words of Fairy Godmother: You know what the trouble is with most people? They sit at home wishing for something to happen, instead of just doing something about it.”

Cinderella runs through March 27th, Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM. Tickets are $18 for Adults, $15 (for Seniors and Students) and $10 for Children under 10. For reservations, call 747-5434. And visit http://www.thefootlightsinfalmouth.com for directions and info on upcoming events.

Oh yes, about my Local Theater Givens…I consider myself immensely blessed to be a tiny part of the magical world of community theater in Southern Maine. I’ve come to know some players who are hands-down simply the best at their craft. Gretchen Wood and Cindy O’Neill are in that category, habitually professional and naturally amazing. So if you ever see their name in a PlayBill, it’s a GIVEN that you will be supremely entertained by awesome individuals with incredible gifts.


–Louis Philippe


One Response to “Falmouth Footlights Brings Cinderella To Life With Magical Splendor For All Ages”

  1. Nice review Louis

    Sent from my iPhone


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