MANSFIELD — Alayna Ross was like any little girl growing up around Lexington, dreaming of being Cinderella and meeting Prince Charming at a fabulous ball.
Those dreams become theatrical musical reality on Friday night at the Mansfield Playhouse when the community theater begins a two-weekend run of the famous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
“Cinderella’s always been a part of my childhood,” the 24-year-old Lexington High School graduate said. “I had the (musical) on VHS when I was little and I played it until the tape wore out.”
That admiration for Julie Andrews and other actresses who have portrayed Cinderella helped convince Ross to return to the Playhouse stage for the first time since January 2022 in the lead role.
The local show and its cast of 20 follows largely the same storyline that the famed composers created for Andrews in the live TV version in 1957.
It has all the characters audiences have known and loved, including the mean stepmother and stepsisters, the Fairy Godmother, the King and Queen and the magical carriage.
It also has the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein music and lyrics, including “Impossible/It’s Possible,” “In My Own Little Corner” and “The Prince is Giving a Ball.”
“I knew that it was a classic and I was excited to be a part of the original production. That excited me, being a part of the original,” said Ross, who has remained active behind the scenes at the Playhouse choreographing children’s musicals.
Adult musical returns to Mansfield Playhouse
The chance to return an adult musical to the Mansfield Playhouse stage also excites Artistic Director Doug Wertz.
The last such production was several years ago with “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“I think one of the biggest concerns that we’ve had was scheduling musical directors. It’s a small pool to be able to get ahold of them, especially when we do the other two children’s musicals a year,” Wertz said.
“Most of our musical directors are teachers and educators and it’s hard because of their school requirements,” Wertz said.
Musicals also come with a higher cost.
“Putting on musicals, production wise for the rental of the equipment, and the royalties, the scripts, the librettos, and it’s all rental. The music, if you’re using orchestration tracks, it’s incredibly expensive.
“It makes it very difficult for community theaters to do. But we also felt like if we want to continue to grow and bring people in and and serve the community with what they want, then we decided to invest in a nice musical,” Wertz said.
(GALLERY: Below are photos taken during a dress rehearsal this week of “Cinderella” at the Mansfield Playhouse.)
Like father, like son
The show also offers Wertz a chance to again work with his son, Cameron, 20, who grew up doing youth shows at the Playhouse with his father.
Cast now as Prince Charming, the younger Wertz relishes working with his dad again.
“I love it and I miss it,” he said of performing. “My dad I get get along really well and we work well together,” said Wertz, who works as a CNC machinist at Lennox Machine in Mansfield.
“I haven’t been able to help him with the set or anything because of work. I never have time. But the time I have gotten to work with him, it’s been a blast,” Cameron Wertz said.
Doug Wertz said other performers helped convince Cameron Wertz to audition.
“Growing up in the musical theater, children’s productions, he really likes the musical theater aspect of it.
“So it was hard to get him to do anything, once he reached the age of leaving the children’s program. Trying to get him to audition for any other role in an adult show was very tough.
“But when he saw this, he thought, ‘OK, yeah.’ It’s not a huge role, but he’s got some really nice songs. I don’t want to sound biased, but the kid’s got some pipes. He’s got a beautiful voice,” Wertz said.
A return to Cinderella
The show also gives Jamie Stima a chance to again perform in Cinderella, albeit in a different role. The 30-year-old was the vocal director and evil stepmother when St. Peter’s produced the show a couple of years ago.
“I had been looking to get back into performing. And so since I was familiar with the show anyway, I thought, that’s one of those shows I would love to do anything at all,” the 2011 St. Peter’s High School graduate said.
“When I auditioned, I didn’t even say specifically the queen. I just said anything, I will take literally anything because it’s just a fun show,” said Stima, now an academic advisor at OSU-Mansfield.
“When I was cast as the queen, I’ve really enjoyed the role because she brings maturity and an adultness to the rest of the cast that doesn’t really exist anywhere else in the show. She helps make everyone funnier because of how she brings some of that maturity to play off of everybody else,” Stima said.
Ready for opening night
Producing a show like Cinderella in a community theater is a challenge. But Doug Wertz said the cast and crew have worked well together.
“They’ve been the greatest group. We’ve got some new people that have come in and this is the first time they’ve ever done anything that we’ve had here. We’ve had some that have directed shows in their schools and then they said, ‘I want to just see what’s different and what it’s like.’
” So they auditioned and … the voices sound like a studio recording,” Wertz said.
Ross, an academic advisor at Ashland University, acknowledges it’s a bit of a challenge to make a 66-year-old show pop in today’s world — while staying true to the idyllic characters.
“I think because it is so old, that (we are) trying to make it still a little bit modern,” she aid.
“But there is still the expectation that everybody knows Cinderella and it’s a part of everybody’s childhood. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you had Cinderella.
“I just hope that when people see the production that maybe for a moment, for an hour and a half or whatever, they can be little girls again … little ones again.”
“Cinderella” opens Friday, Sept. 8, at 8 p.m. at the Mansfield Playhouse. Other show dates are Sept. 9, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 17 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets for this musical are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and $8 for students.
For tickets and reservations, call the Playhouse box office at 419-522-2883. Box office hours are Wednesday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and one hour prior to all performances.
Tickets may also be purchased online at https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/playhouse/3818.
The show is sponsored by Mechanics Bank, Taylor Metal Products and BP Electric. Season sponsors are Richland Source, iHeart Media, Mid-State Multimedia Group and Schmidt Security Pro.
Cast of Cinderella
Godmother… Tori O’Brien
Ensemble… Candy Boyd, Caelyn Brubaker, Joi Davis, Alyssa Erdenberger, Ian Hergatt, Mary Kettering, Jenn Lang, Alicia Porter, Kristy Slagle and Scott Allen Woodlee
Director — Doug Wertz
Musical director — Kim Wolbert
Choreographer — Beth Anne Jarvis
Stage manager — Kanashay Grayeagle
Set design and construction — Doug Wertz
Set painting crew — Doug Wertz, Tammy Wertz, Milla Wertz, Heidi Ankrum, Grace Ankrum, Evan Wertz and Daniella Araya
Sound engineer and operator — Jerry Calhoun
Light board operator — Kanashay Grayeagle
Projections operator — Doug Wertz
Props — Kanashay Grayeagle, Lynne Moore, Jerry Calhoun and Jennifer Briner
Stage crew — Lynne Moore, Tony Viscioni, Josie Burns, Christy Landon, Troy Landon
Hair and makeup — Lynne Moore and Megan Workman
Costumes — Candy Boyd, Tori O’Brien, Linda Newman, Abby Shewan, Noah Burton, Ginger Stoops, Christy Landon, Lorrie Williams, Aaron McNulty, Jamie Stima, Jenn Lang, Alicia Porter and Kristy Slagle
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