When the curtains open for the first community theater production on Friday in Pablo Center at the Confluence’s RCU Theatre, it’s going to be for a show unlike anything the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s typical audience has seen.
ECCT’s “Cinderella” has characters the audience will recognize — the mice, Prince Eric, the stepmother and her daughters — and even loosely follows the romantic plot of the classic Disney film.
Outside of that though, actor Jeffrey Peterson, who plays Prince Eric, said he thinks the audience will be as surprised as he was upon first reading the script.
“I doubt there’s anyone who will see this show that knows what they’re getting into,” Peterson said. “It’s definitely not the ‘Cinderella’ you’re used to.”
“Cinderella” runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 18, at Pablo Center, 128 Graham Ave. This take on the classic was written by the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, and it features quite the humorous update.
With everything from classic Christmas carols to contemporary songs and even a little bit of Whitney Houston, Peterson said audiences might be familiar with the music itself, but not paired with the classic fairy tale.
Perhaps the funniest part of it, cast members agreed, is the re-imagining of Cinderella’s stepmother — dressed in drag — and stepsisters.
“What adds to the ridiculousness of the step-family is that almost every other character is played in that elegant, Victorian ‘Cinderella’ that everyone expects,” Peterson said. “We have this gorgeous hall for this ball and these beautiful dresses, and then you have the step-family who is everything that is not that. That contrast is really fun and adds an interesting depth to it that I wasn’t expecting going in.”
And while there is a script to follow, actress Holly Wiesner, who plays one of the stepsisters, Dorcas, said the step-family actors have had a good time coming up with their own bits and jokes to throw into the show.
“We can play and improv a little bit with certain things,” Wiesner said. “It’s a lot of fun to be creative, but it’s also challenging because we want to tailor it to Eau Claire and to our audience.”
With a new stage to perform on, new-to-ECCT script and a host of new actors, Joe Burger, playing the stepmother, said the show has been a refreshing burst of energy that he’s enjoyed bringing together.
And though it is at times a challenge to not have anything besides the script to reference, Burger thinks it will pay off to the audience for an authentic, original production.
“This is our own interpretation, what we’ve created as a group,” Burger said. “Whatever comes out there on opening night is almost 100 percent us. The lines are there, but we have nothing to reference, and that’s exciting in a lot of ways.”
So, what exactly should audiences expect?
A lot of laughter, Burger said, mixed in with some gorgeous sets, the “bare bones” storyline of Cinderella meeting her prince charming and even some audience interaction.
There also is, at its core, the message of “Cinderella,” Peterson said.
“The message that dreams do come true is there,” he said. “Just in a far more comical way.”