Friday, December 2, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on November 22nd, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 39

Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Cinderella' fills PCPA's stage with majesty


The glass slippers. The fairy godmother. The pumpkin that turns into a carriage. Few retellings of the Cinderella story exclude these magic motifs, and the best ones manage to still feel fresh while doing so.

Faith Lennon Richter plays Cinderella, or Ella as she’s called more often, in the Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

The Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s (PCPA) new take on the classic rags-to-riches fantasy is one such case. Now playing through Dec. 23 at the Marian Theatre in Santa Maria, this iteration of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella—which debuted as a television special in 1957—is based on the 2013 revamp of the beloved musical. 

The prolific duo’s songs never changed, but Hammerstein’s original book was rewritten by playwright Douglas Carter Beane to expand upon issues of society and class among the inhabitants of the show’s monarchical setting, and reimagine some of the original fairy tale’s heroes and villains with some added nuances.

Before the stroke of midnight
The Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) presents its production of Cinderella through Dec. 23 at the Marian Theatre, located at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. Admission ranges from $25 to $59. Visit or for tickets and show times. For more info, call the PCPA box office at (805) 922-8313.

I should have included the wicked stepmother—referred to as Madame (Kitty Balay) in PCPA’s production—in my list of constants above because, honestly, does Cinderella even count as “a Cinderella story” without this iconic personification of malice? Madame and her daughter, Charlotte (Audrey Cirzan), are habitually cruel to Cinderella (Faith Lennon Richter), as folks familiar with the fairy tale won’t be surprised by. 

As soon as Cinderella’s other stepsister, Gabrielle (Christen Celaya) makes her first appearance, I was expecting her to treat our heroine with equal disdain. In a twist, Gabrielle is a friend, not a foe, to Cinderella, or Ella as she’s referred to more often, and later becomes ecstatic when she realizes the mystery woman who enchanted Prince Topher (Samuel Lariviere) at a recent masquerade ball was her stepsister in disguise. 

Keenon Hooks (center) plays Lord Pinkleton, who helps spread the word to the public that Prince Topher is throwing a masquerade ball. Hooks also choreographed the show.

While Madame has been secretly plotting with the prince’s lord protector, Sebastian (Andy Philpot), to arrange a marriage between Gabrielle and Topher, Gabrielle has a secret of her own. She has no intention to ever marry Topher, as she’s instead in love with Jean-Michel (Oscar Emmanuel Fabela), a new character added to the tale by Beane who aims to help the kingdom’s most oppressed, even if it means sparking a revolution against the monarchy. 

Jean-Michel reminds me of the charismatic rabble-rouser Enjolras in Les Miserables, and I won’t give away how his arc ends, but what I will say is that it feels incredibly timely, especially right after election season. 

Jean-Michel (Oscar Emmanuel Fabela) hopes to inspire the inhabitants of Prince Topher’s kingdom to start a revolution and overturn the monarchy.

PCPA’s Cinderella is a remarkable achievement, thanks to its exceptional cast and high production values. With a story that revolves around a protagonist trying to achieve her goal before the stroke of midnight, I loved this show’s steampunk-esque emphasis on clocks and clockwork mechanisms within the set design and even some of the character designs.

While preparing to direct the local musical, Erik Stein researched several iterations of the Cinderella story, he wrote in the show’s program.

“One was an Italian Cinderella story that started with a woman who gives birth to a gourd,” Stein said. “She abandons that gourd in the forest, a prince finds the gourd, and the infant Cinderella is inside the gourd. It’s really the classic boy meets gourd story.

“As I read all these different versions of the story, I discovered that folklore doesn’t go away; it just takes new forms,” Stein added. “We have a need to revisit and share the stories we’ve heard before not because they are new, but because they are familiar.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood’s life feels like a boy meets gourd story sometimes. Send comments to

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