Paige Thatcher as Cinderella (right), tries to meet all the demands placed upon her. From left are Madette Kusic as Stepmother, Sarah Brammell as Stepsister Portia and Abby DiLonardo as Stepsister Joy.
Although the ladies are thrilled that the prince is giving a ball, the king’s really the one paying for it and has some financial concerns when Serra Catholic High School presents Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical version of “Cinderella.”
The musical opens Wednesday (April 18) and continues nightly at 7 p.m. through Saturday (April 21).
“‘Cinderella’ was a good choice for us because Serra Catholic has never performed this musical,” director Jesse Bush said. “Since I’m new here, I decided to pick a show I’m familiar with to help me get to know the students.”
Bush said Serra’s “Cinderella” is the fourth high school musical he has directed. In addition to his director duties, he teaches music, music appreciation, and is the band and choir director.
While most of the storyline is the same --- the prince is looking for the woman of his dreams and finds her through a stranger who leaves behind a glass slipper --- there are some differences for those mostly familiar with the Disney version.
We still have Ella as the main character, dubbed Cinderella when she falls on hard times after her father dies and she’s left to serve her not-so-nice stepmother and stepsisters.
But there are some comedic moments in the musical, plenty of singing and dancing, and a cast excited about using borrowed costumes, props, and set pieces to recreate the popular story.
Above: Alani DiLonardo as the Fairy Godmother enchants the cast of Serra's "Cinderella."
Alani DiLonardo makes an early entrance and sets the stage for some of the special effects to come as she makes her way among the townsfolk.
Initially appearing as a beggar, she said she gets to wear one of the transforming costumes to become Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. Her walking stick and broom also light up.
Senior Madette Kusic, junior Sarah Brammell and freshman Abby DiLonardo portray Stepmother, Stepsister Portia, and Stepsister Joy, respectively.
“This has so much more dimension” than the cartoon version, Madette said. “I really do like it. The three of us work well together.” She’s been in the musical every year and said she likes playing strong characters.
Sarah and Abby said the three of them are enjoying the interaction.
“We play off each other” to bring some comedy to their scenes, Sarah said.
Junior Jimmy Fedor said his role as father to the prince “is a really fun change for me.” He described the Queen, played by senior Olivia D’Andrea, as very proper.
“I wanted to bring in some comedy to even things out,” he said. “I’m watching the budget (for the ball). I’m not a big spender.”
Above: Nicky Stumme as the Herald announces the prince is giving a ball to the excited crowd in a scene from Serra Catholic's production of "Cinderella."
Although known generally as Prince Charming, that name has been used for many of the handsome male characters in romantic roles, who generally rescue a damsel --- royal or otherwise --- who is in distress.
The lyrics of “The Prince is Giving a Ball” refer to his first name as Christopher – with a long string of middle names for him, the King and Queen – in one of the lighter numbers from the musical, as proclaimed by Nicky Stumme as the Herald.
No matter what you call the prince, senior Joey Edmundson is ready to step into the role, bringing his own take to the character. And after he’s done being charming, Joey said he plans to major in international relations in college.
Above: Paige Thatcher as Cinderella and Joey Edmundson as Prince Charming take a ride in their carriage.
Junior Paige Thatcher said she thought it would be fun to play Cinderella, but did not expect to get the role, even though she has performed in musicals every year at Serra.
“My favorite part is the ballroom scene, where everyone is dancing,” she said. Molly Soles is the choreographer who makes that possible.
Paige also gets to wear one of the transforming costumes to become the beautiful, mysterious stranger who captures the prince’s heart.
“We are all so grateful to Gateway for the costumes and props,” she said. The Monroeville high school performed “Cinderella” last year.
“I reached out to Gateway years ago for some costumes at my old school, and they’ve been very helpful ever since,” Bush said.
Then there’s the carriage, which Fairy Godmother magically converts from a pumpkin.
“This carriage has been everywhere,” Bush said. “It started at Norwin. McKeesport rented it, then Gateway purchased and redid the entire thing. They added the tree branch top and lights. Then Southmoreland purchased it and we’re renting it from them. I know all this because it took me awhile to track it down.”
The director said “Cinderella” especially showcases the abilities of the school’s talented female vocalists.
“The Serra Catholic cast and crew have been doing a wonderful job this year. The students are great to work with and I think we’re going to have a very special show,” Bush said.
Serra “Cinderella” Cast and Crew
Jesse Bush is the director, with Molly Soles as choreographer and professional musicians for the orchestra pit.
Student cast is Paige Thatcher as Cinderella, Joey Edmundson as Prince Charming, Alani DiLonardo as Fairy Godmother, Abby DiLonardo as Stepsister Joy, Sarah Brammell as Stepsister Portia, Madette Kusic as Stepmother, Jimmy Fedor as King, Olivia D’Andrea as Queen, Nicky Stumme as Herald, Adeline Roper as Chef, Lauren Karp as Steward, Colton Debiase as Footman and Ryan Gaydos as Clumsy Man.
Ensemble includes Caitlyn Chirdon, Katie Crossen, Colton Debiase, Anna Edmundson, Michael Estocin, Emily Gault, Ryan Gaydos, Ryan Gedman, Jordan Graham, Nicaela Greenlee, Sarah Indyk, Anna Iovino, Karley Irwin, Kelsey Irwin, Lauren Karp, Logan Kearns, Mary Elizabeth Malandra, Julie McCarthy, Anna Osinski, Adeline Roper, Lindsay Schanck, Anna Schlossberg, Shelby Schneider, Brighid Shanahan, Natalia Shearer, Nicholas Stumme, Serafina Szarmach, Dylan Wilding and Noah Yeasted.
Members of the stage crew are Clara Almeter, stage manager; Paige Bosic, soundboard; Maranda Scherer, lightboard; Tyler Gedman, art; Savannah Staab, Alexys Riley, Emily Martin and Maura Spang, makeup; Amanda Pope, hair; William Capp, Katelyn Kovalsky, Gabriell Liberatore, Gabrielle Mejalli, Harrison Potts, Maya Poziviak and Maura Spang.
If You Go
“Cinderella” opens Wednesday, April 18, and runs daily at 7 p.m. through Saturday, April 21 at Serra Catholic High School, 200 Hershey Drive, Haler Heights, McKeesport. Tickets are $5 for students, $8 for adults, and are available at the door, by calling the high school office at 412-751-2020, or from cast members.
Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a freelance journalist and a former editor of the McKeesport Daily News and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Originally published April 17, 2018.