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Charm is charm in Cinderella

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Over in Matthews, there's one overpowering reason to catch the Matthews Playhouse edition of Cinderella. Steve Bryan is back on the local radar as Cindy's wicked stepmother, bustling with true Rodgers & Hammerstein flamboyance -- and a fresh shtick or two. It's a warm-up for Bryan's upcoming feature role in The Producers next month at CP, but why not collect the full set?

Jamey Varnadore, also bound for CP Summer this season, is certainly complicit in Bryan's bravura since he costumes the show as well as directs. Nor does he restrict his wardrobe extravagance to the rig Bryan flounces around in. Wait till you see the ballroom attire of stepdaughter Cinderella. It's a dazzler, but even this vision is upstaged by the magnificence of the carriage designed by Roy Schumacher. Apparently, Disney hasn't nailed down the copyrights to the Cindymobile and our heroine's scullery garb.

Cassie Shintay and Ashley Isenhower augment the comedy as the improbably vain stepsisters, outfitted with high hair and garish, outsized gowns, but there are also pleasurable tÍte-‡-tÍtes twixt Cinderella and Prince Charming. I detected some regality in Alex Goley's go at the Prince, along with the romantic trepidations, and the Cinderella presented by Lauren Ballard was fully worthy of his adoration. Their Act 2 duets, "Ten Minutes Ago" and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful," have a charm that's better suited to The Sound of Music, but charm is charm, dammit.

The four-piece band led by musical director Lynn Mitchell doesn't blow down any doors, but it doesn't drown out any lyrics, either. My wife Sue would have me add that Ballard's lovely voice needs to be louder, but she's singing unamplified at the Matthews Playhouse, so I'm inclined to cut the kid some slack. My advice is to sit toward the front of that shoebox to feel equally charitable.

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