Kathie Isaac-Luke

Sierra Repertory Theatre's delightful version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical, "Cinderella," opened Friday at the Fallon House Theater in Columbia State Historic Park.

A hit when SRT presented it here 10 years ago, this latest production should again captivate audiences of all ages.

"Cinderella" is one of the most popular fairy tale narratives for good reason.

It boasts a cast of rich and colorful characters and its themes of justice, reward and triumph over repression have universal appeal.

This production of "Cinderella" follows the traditional story line and adds some unique and engaging characterizations.

Illeana Kirven is superb as the charismatic fairy godmother who lights up the stage with warmth and humor every time she enters.

As occasional narrator, she tells us that her magical powers have their limits, but she more than makes up for this with her spunk and ingenuity.

As played by Heather Orth, the wicked stepmother is certainly not one dimensional. Yes, she is domineering, scheming and mean-spirited. But she is also witty, perceptive and surprisingly vulnerable. Expect the unexpected when she is onstage.

In charming performances, SRT favorites Ron Randall and Caitlin Randall play the amiable and long-married King and Queen. United in their interest to see their son wed, they humorously bicker behind the scenes on how to accomplish this.

More than holding their own with these larger than life characters are Samantha Bruce as "Cinderella" and Jake Delaney as the prince. Bruce's "Cinderella" is self-assured, resourceful and eager to make something more of her life. With her lovely singing voice and the sunny optimism she brings to the role, Bruce is a very appealing heroine.

Delaney's prince is in turns brooding and steadfast. The prince is determined to find love on his own terms, and he also strives to become less isolated from the lives of his subjects.

Bruce and Delaney are especially good together in a number of musical duets. Some of the musical highlights from the show include "Ten Minutes Ago," "Impossible; It's Possible," and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful."

In an energetic performance, Kenny Wade Marshall plays Lionel, the prince's beleaguered valet. Marshall is hilarious as he tries to navigate between the conflicting wishes of the prince and his parents.

Daniella Painton and Jennylind Parris are wonderful as the inappropriately named stepsisters, Joy and Grace. The stepsisters are not so much evil as they are insensitive and uncouth. They are given a lot to do, and Painton and Parris approach their roles with relish.

They are touching when they sing a lament in which they bristle at the unfairness of the truism that it is always the pretty girls who attract the prince.

Rounding out the cast are Kayla Hart, Ashley Townsend, Ariel Neydavoud, Emily Gordon, Mike Fiore and Lucas Coleman as loyal subjects of the kingdom. Together, they are excellent in several celebratory dances.

Director Scott Viets keeps the pace lively and provides some surprising turns as the story unfolds. His polished and lively choreography adds to the festive mood.

Near the close of the first act, there is some audience interaction that is both surprising and creative, and which had the opening night audience erupting in laughter.

This production of "Cinderella" is a holiday treat for the entire family. Children will love the enchantment of the magic spells, especially the imaginative scene where mice are transformed into horses and rats into footmen. Adults will find humor in the inspired performances and the clever contemporary references in the script.

They dioramic storybook set is designed by Jay Heiserman and adapted by Jeff Cooper. Colored lighting by Christopher Van Tuyl adds to the magic.

Musical direction is by Mark Seiver with musical orchestration by Sean Paxton.

The sumptuous costumes, including the opulent dresses for the royal ball and the colorful attire of the townsfolk are designed by guest artist Ryan Moller.

"Cinderella" runs through Dec. 22 at the Fallon House Theater in Columbia.

For more information or reservations, call 532-3120 or visit www.sierrarep.org.