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September 27th, 2023

cinderella and stepsisters spotlightCinderella (Dennise Garcia Bautista) is stuck doing the work of her stepfamily (Shiaa Dunlap, Hope Bradford and Khloe Rodriguez) in a recent rehearsal for Eisenhower Middle School’s upcoming production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘Cinderella.’ L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Drama students throughout USD 480 have been showing off their skills in the past few weeks and soon, that showcase of skills will continue. 

The Eisenhower Middle School musical theatre class and choir students will be performing the youth version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's 'Cinderella,' with performances taking place May 2 at 6:30 p.m. and May 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Eisenhower Middle School cafeteria. Tickets are $5 per person, with children 5 and under free, and people will need to come in through the back entrance. The show is based on the famous fairytale and follows a young woman forced into a life of servitude by her cruel stepfamily, who dreams of a better life. With the help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella is transformed into a princess and finds her prince on a life-changing night.

“We've had this musical theatre class available for a while and we implemented the class in order to help build that bigger bridge to the Liberal High School Drama department. We started the class and we've done some cabaret-style concerts where the students have performed songs from different musicals,” Director Timothy Smith said. “However, I noticed this year, our enrollment numbers were lower than in the past, so I thought 'What's a way we can jazz it up and make the class a bit more entertaining and draw more students in?' to which the response was 'How about we actually do a musical?' So I started researching and thinking about what kind of show we could do based on the students I had enrolled and the numbers and all of that. 'Cinderella' ultimately fit that bill and it's also a story everyone knows and has enjoyed for years. And a great thing about this show is we're collaborating with the choir, so we've actually got a pretty big cast with everyone who's involved.”

Smith said the rehearsal process has also gone very well for the show. 

“I like the teaching, and I've enjoyed seeing the growth everyone has shown. From day one until now, everyone has improved so, so much and it's been a joy thinking back about how we started vs. where we are now. The students have great instincts and have made some great choices when it comes to their characters' characterization and they've really taken what I call the 2D script and made these characters into fully fledged people. They've also helped each other out quite a bit and there really hasn't been any major conflict, which I think is amazing because there's that attitude of 'We're all in this together,'” Smith said. “We've had the full semester to work on the show, but we've only been able to work on it exclusively during class, which meets every other day, so making sure everyone still remembers their music and blocking and everything else from class to class has been a bit of a challenge, but the students have done really well. With that in mind, I've also reminded them they have to put in some work outside of class to make sure they have everything ready to go. I also don't have a lot of experience with musicals myself, but I've talked to people involved with Rainbow Players and some others in the area who do have that experience, and they've given me some great advice I've been able to apply with the students.”

With opening night close by, Smith said the students are still fine-tuning some things, all with a positive attitude. 

“I'd say the overall vibe is excitement tempered with some nerves. For some of the students, this is the first musical they've EVER been part of, and for some of the students who have done musical theatre before, this is their first lead role and they want to do a good job. So there's lot's of excitement and nerves, but I think once everyone's onstage and in front of the audience, their energy will come through and they'll do amazing,” Smith said. “These students have been putting in so, so much hard work on this show and the more people who can come and support these students, the better, because they are excited to perform. It will also be a great chance for some feedback, which can give us some ideas of what can be done for the next show, when/whatever that will be.”

Smith added he’s already getting a few ideas for future shows. 

“Putting together 'Cinderella' has already given me a few ideas of what I would like to do in the future, and I already know there are more students who are wanting to take the musical theatre class next year because of the buzz around the show. So there are aspects I've been able to see that can be tweaked for future shows, and there are other aspects to keep in mind when thinking of things like this,” Smith said. “As far as future shows, I can't say if we'll continue with the cabaret-style concerts or do another big show/after school thing. I've been working to avoid the after-school stuff because so many of my students are also involved in sports and other activities – my Cinderella is on the varsity soccer team and my Stepmother is on the track team, so there are things like that to keep in mind. And that's actually why the show nights aren't back to back, because there are athletic events going on around that time as well. There's definitely a balance that needs to be struck because I want to continue offering the class in order to offer these types of opportunities, but I don't want the students to have to choose between activities they might be equally passionate about.”

Overall, Smith said, he hopes for the community to come out and show its support for the show. 

“I'm excited for the students to showcase everything they've been working on with the show, the students are clicking and moving along and learning everything really well, and I want the community to see all of that work,” Smith said. “I'm really excited for the students to get this experience of performing and for the community to see that passion come out.”