This is a show you can see only at a few other places. 

It was a full house opening night for Azusa Pacific Theater’s Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” Last Thursday, the first show of the season went off for the most part, without a hitch. From the beginning, the audience laughed at every joke and by the end, they danced along to the musical score, proving it to be a very special show. 

What makes APU’s take on “Cinderella” stand apart  from the other nearly 800 versions of the 2000 year old classic? For starters, APU is taking on the 1957 Roders and Hammerstein commercial sensation “Cinderella” which was so successful, it was remade in 1997. Then in 2013, it was readapted for a more contemporary Broadway show. 

Although a modern Cinderella story may have been done before, what’s unique about this production is that it feels like a present-time coming of age story set in a historic time. This creates ironic humor that spices up the commonly known plot. 

The updated version didn’t seem to quite have the dramatic depth as other Cinderellas have but the whimsical comedy made it stand apart. Scenes when Ella (Cinderella) ran off from the ball and returned to place the glass shoe on the steps while the prince watched, explains the type of self aware humor the show featured. It was the kind of comedy that would make fun of Cinderella for thinking she could hide behind a tiny little mask

The superb acting really added to the comedic performance.  As sophomore and theater teaching assistant, Ava Phillips said, “A lot of the actors really embodied their characters which made them more enjoyable and believable so when I laughed it was more of a genuine laugh and not like a pity laugh.”  

Photo courtesy of APU Theater Arts

Jadon Garland who played Sebastian,  the prince’s guardian, was especially hilarious and one of the highlights of the show. Additionally, during more serious, heartfelt moments, the cast delivered. 

For sophomore Holly Moran, the acting brought her to tears. “The stepmother was really mean. She [Ellie Fraser] acted so well that I felt so bad for those girls I started crying, and I was like ‘wow that’s good acting,’” Moran said. 

Fraser’s acting was truly deliciously malicious, making the stepmother easy to hate. However, the stepmother along with the stepsisters have more of a character arc than in other versions which makes the story more interesting, but somewhat undermines Cinderella’s struggles. 

That said, the stepsisters really transformed this story into something new. Stepsister Gabrielle, who’s story felt like a 90s romantic comedy, was characterized so authentically by North Jackson it became a show of its own. Logan Boothby who played the other stepsister Charlotte, also was a showstopper with some of the most impressive vocals of the night. 

The leading roles were perfectly cast as well. Maddie Halliburton who played Ella (Cinderella) had the grace of Audrey Hepburn, and Dylan Renfrow casted as Prince Topher delivered the most heartfelt performance singing “Loneliness of Evening,” with a voice crack (which sounded purposeful) to match the heartbreaking scene. 

A shoutout must also be rewarded to the ensemble. The ensemble cast was smaller, so their costume changes were remarkably fast. Choreographer, Michael Milligan, did a wonderful job coordinating the dances, filling the entire stage with magic at all times. 

Speaking of magic, the sets and props were packed with intricate details. From the carousel, spinning balcony, miniature puppets, glittery horses, to all of the pumpkins it was a sight that cannot be missed. The digital backdrop was a nice touch as well, making the whole thing seem like a painted storybook.

Photo courtesy of APU Theater Arts

Then there was the costume design done by Beckette Ogden. It wasn’t just Ella’s velvety white dress that wowed at the ball, rather everyone looked stunning. It was as if every Disney princess rushed the stage with pinks, blues, yellows and greens. Not only that, but to add to the spectacle, the musical number in this ball scene was color coordinated! 

Finally, music scores like “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” really created chemistry between the prince and Ella. However, out of all the songs, there was certainly a crowd favorite.

When Phillips and Moran were asked their favorite moments of the show, they both started singing “It’s Possible.” For Phillips, hearing this in person was extra special. “My brother and I when we were younger would sing that around the house like ‘Impossible,'”Phillips said. 

All things considered, it is a show that is unlike any other. You’ll have to see it yourself to see if the rendition ranks among one of your favorites. For those who missed the show, the fun continues from Oct. 12, through Oct. 14.