Apple Hill tweaks classic 'Cinderella'
Johnny Appleseed Children's Theatre at Apple Hill Playhouse opens its summer season with a familiar story with an unfamiliar twist.
“This story has the fairy godmother as being Irish from the land of the wee people,” says Tina Lepidi-Stewart, director of “Cinderella.” “Also, Cinderella has a dog that can magically speak only in the presence of the fairy godmother. The King also has a penchant for everyone wanting to ‘sing about it.' And the Queen doesn't like loud noises.”
New York playwright and actor Richard Kinter is known for taking liberties with classic children's stories in his stage adaptations. Formerly of Pittsburgh, he earned his acting degree at Carnegie Mellon University and used to perform at Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland.
It was there, he says, he was introduced to traditional children's theater productions, which he found condescending and boring for children. He moved to New York and took a job at Kay Rockefeller's Traveling Playhouse and began rewriting the children's classics.
In Apple Hill's production of “Cinderella,” Tobitha Sasso-Galembush, an eighth-grade English teacher at Norwin Middle School, portrays the Stepmother, whom she says stays close to the traditional role.
Sasso-Galembush, of Greensburg, says the more action there is in a show for children, the longer it will hold their attention. “Kids love chase scenes,” she says. She last portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West in an Apple Hill production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Chelsi Bartlow of New Stanton plays the title role of Cinderella in the show. Cinderella isn't the beautiful belle of the ball like the Disney version of her character.
“She is definitely not put together all of the time,” Bartlow says. “She gets frazzled, and by the end of the play, she's definitely more spunky and assertive. And, did I mention I have a crazy Irish Fairy Godmother (Macy Kostovny)?”
This is Bartlow's first children's show. She directed “Seussical” for McKeesport High School this past April and has performed at Geyer Performing Arts Center, where she also has worked on productions as costume designer.
“I love acting and singing, and on top of that, I get to work with my little sister (Tori) in this show,” she says. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet new people who share my theatrical passion.”
The cast also includes Tori Bartlow (New Stanton), Katrina Bush (Clarksburg), Dorelei Hankins (Jeannette), Maggie Klingensmith (Murrysville), Macy Kostovny and Terry Madarish (of Greensburg), Rose Lloyd (Vandergrift), Reese McCracken and Camerson Soich (Latrobe), Natalie Norman and Nicholas Norman (Level Green), Halle Polechko (Harrison City), Laura Stanish (Youngwood) and Michael Deibert (North Huntingdon).
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.