Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ella Enchanted—Oregon Children’s Theatre—Downtown Portland




            A Celebration of Me!

    This lovely, family musical, based on the Cinderella fairy tale, is adapted for the stage by Karen Zacarias, with music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, from the book by Gail Carson Levine.  It is directed & choreographed by Jessica Wallenfels and music direction by Darcy White.  It is playing at the Newmark Theatre space, 1111 SW Broadway, through November 18th.  For more information, go to their site at www.octc.org

    This classic fairy tale has been widely adapted from, among others, the animated Disney classic, to the live musical from Roger & Hammerstein, to the likes of Jerry Lewis.  My own special favorite is “Ever After,” a non-musical version with Drew Barrymore.  It is a timeless tale that promotes that, even an ordinary citizen might aspire to the guarded royalty of a kingdom (al la recent events in England). 

    But in this version, it hinges also on the coat-tails of the MeToo Movement, as well, giving more weight to a woman standing up for her rights and not being bullied around.  Also, it touches on the need for understanding different languages in order to begin to embrace other cultures.  A grand and entertaining learning experience for all.

    The story begins its downward spiral when Ella’s (Sophia Takla) daffy fairy god-mother, Lucinda (Sam Bangs), arrives at her birth and bestows upon her the gift of Obedience, to anyone and everything she is ordered to do.  Her sensible Mother (Claire Rigsby), is not quite so please with this “gift” but her autocratic father, Sir Peter (Christopher Kehoe), is very impressed. 

    The tale goes from bad to worse, as her mother dies in Ella’s childhood and her father takes up with the unscrupulous, Dame Olga (Rigsby, again), who has two bratty daughters, the scheming Olive (Riley Holmes) and her sister, Hattie (Samantha Garcia).  They are sent to a Finishing School where her step-sisters use her “gift” to bully her and when home, she becomes a mere servant in the household.

    But her life is not all misery, as she has met a friend in Prince Charmont (Skylar Derthick), who is a nice enough lad and is glad to have a friend.  Together they encounter Ogres and Giants and eventually become closer.  I think you know the rest of the story about The Ball, and the transformation of Ella, and the errant slipper.  But the ending does have an unusual twist (which I can’t reveal, of course) but let me say that it is very topical in these times.

    The songs are all quite pleasant and fit the story, but nothing you’d be humming to yourself afterwards.  The cast is exceptionally good and, as singers, even a notch higher.  Rigsby and Bangs have very expressive voices, as well as characters.  Kehoe has a great comic bit as the Prince’s Squire.  And Takla, as the lead character, has a voice that would raise the roof and her acting, in some complicated scenes, is amazing.  A gold star for this young lady!

    Also kudos should be given to the creator of the Ogres and, especially, the Giants, which, I assume, was the creation of, in part , Wallenfels, who did a super job with directing this epic, and Emily Horton, who managed the costumes and puppets.  Also, praise for the stagehands that keep the numerous scene changes flowing smoothly.

    I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS