NEGAUNEE - Al Keefer had a problem most musical production directors would envy: Four extremely gifted performers, two roles to cast.
So Keefer did something a bit different and cast all four, which means when the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council's newest musical debuts, there will be two Cinderellas and two Prince Christophers who will take to the stage on alternating nights.
PAAC's production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic opens at the Vista Theater in Negaunee Thursday, with eight performances set over the course of the presentation.
Eliisa Gladwell as Cinderella and Michael Darlington-West as Christopher (the Prince) rehearse a scene from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” which is being presented by the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council at the Vista Theater in Negaunee, starting Thursday. There will be a total of eight performances, with Gladwell and Darlington-West alternating the lead roles with David Gilbert and Miranda Roose. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Playing the lead couple half the time will be Miranda Rose and David Gilbert, while Eliisa Gladwell and Michael Darlington-West will be Cinderella and Prince Christopher during the other half of the run.
"I had two amazingly talented young men and two amazingly talented young women for these roles," Keefer said during a rehearsal. "All of them can act. They can sing. They can dance. I wanted all four for the leads, so this is what we came up with."
This particular version of the familiar fairy tale has wide appeal, Keefer said.
"It's one of those shows that everybody can enjoy," he said. "There is music. There is comedy. There is romance. We have a cast of over 40 and it's an exceptional group. People who come are going to have a great time."
And this isn't your grandma's "Cinderella," said Sara Perfetti, who plays the Queen in this production.
"This is the enchanted version," she said. "The original version was with Julie Andrews and Leslie Ann Warren. This one is more like the one with Brandi and Whitney Houston on TV a few years ago. It has songs added since the original."
Perfetti hasn't been in a PAAC production since playing in the "Meet Me in St. Louis" orchestra years ago.
"I am from Calumet and directed 'Cinderella' up there," Perfetti said. "When I heard they were doing 'Cinderella' here, I decided I wanted to be in it. I tried out and got a part.
"The Queen is kind of devious," she said. "She's trying to get her son married. She plans a ball without him knowing it. At the end, she's happy because he does find a girl at the ball."
That girl, the title character Cinderella, is someone Roose has always wanted to portray.
"In this version, Cinderella has more of a spine. She stands up for herself," Roose said. "She wishes she could go to the ball, but she finds out you can't just wish. You have to take some action to make it happen."
Gilbert, who plays the Prince, said this about his character.
"He's a child. He still listens to his parents, but he is becoming a rebellious teen because he wants to see what it's like in the village," Gilbert said. "He wants to have a more normal life."
But the Prince - Christopher by name - has an issue, Gilbert said.
"He doesn't ask the right questions when he meets a girl, like what's your name and where do you live," he said.
Leslie Sollid has the pivotal role of the Fairy Godmother.
"She's an unconventional Fairy Godmother in this version," Sollid said of her character. "She's funny and a bit dippy and so much fun. I haven't been on stage in eight years. It's an experience, this role. It's a blast."
"Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella: The Enchanted Version," will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then again Aug. 21-23. There will be 2 p.m. performances Sunday and on Aug. 24.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students (high school and younger). Tickets are available at the Vista Theater Thrift Shop in Negaunee, Johnson's Drugs in Ishpeming and Snowbound Books in Marquette, or at the door.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.