KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WFRV) – Two years later than planned because of COVID-19, Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers’ “Cinderella” is brightening Bernie Hupperts Center for the Performing Arts in Kaukauna High School.

The Kaukauna Community Players production directed by Kevin Plekan has a hometown theater feel with a mixed-experience cast getting into the show by two of the greats in American musical theater.

Key performances radiate in different ways. A “thing” also radiates – the choreography.

Choreographer Sophie Hough infuses flair into the moves of two dances in the palace ballroom; and the ensemble seems inspired. The moves are interesting, and the dancers are not just going through the motions but having fun with the flow. Cinderella and the Prince have a flair in their movement, Cinderella particularly a lot in solo.

While maybe not choreographed, the roughneck ways of the two Stepsisters are crammed with action, all comically exaggerated with plenty of acting spice.

The fairytale show is built for a family audience. The cast includes tykes as mice and other characters. The story is about dreaming, and, indeed, Friday night some little girls came dressed as princesses.

One highlight happens early. “In My Own Little Corner” shows a master at work and how brilliance with words flow into beautiful singing and graceful movement. Oscar Hammerstein II creates a girl quietly thinking in her favorite chair and then imagining a harrowing wildlife adventure. Cinderella – Payton Mae Bayer on Friday night – is swept into singing and enacting a story that blends reflection and adventure. That’s why musical theater is amazing. So much can happen in a few minutes, and then what happens sticks in memories.

Another highlight is the arrival of Cinderella at the Prince’s ball. There she is in her sky blue gown, highlighted by a spotlight. No wonder the Prince (Aidyn Reetz) is smitten and eventually sings (handsomely) one of the most romantic of all music theater romance songs: “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful (or are you beautiful because I love you).”

Anytime the Stepsisters are around (Friday: Jillian Radtke as Portia and Brandy Bures as Joy) the stage lights up with verbal and physical shenanigans in terrific performances. And Jillian Radtke has a WOW hairdo, her red hair sticking straight out right and left like shock waves.

In ways, the production does the best it can do with some set work and other elements. But then there are special touches, like Cinderella’s carriage. With four nervously prancing white horses (young women), the carriage is an outline of a pumpkin in gold. And it lights up as the scene changes.

Imagination is part of this “Cinderella,” which is bringing Kaukauna back to some kind of normalcy.

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Running time: Two hours, five minutes

Remaining performances: 1 and 7 p.m. June 25

Info: kaukaunacommunityplayers.org

Creative: Words and lyrics – Oscar Hammerstein II; music – Richard Rodgers; director – Kevin Plekan; director’s assistant – Misa Brandom; choreographer – Sophie Hough; stage manager – Misa Brandom, Sophie Hough; music director – Tony Claus; lighting design – AJ Hendee; props master – Aurelia Smet; scenic designer/set builder – Eric Schommer; lighting/sound – Lexi LaGrow/Calvin LaGrow; costumer – Yin-Si Yang

Cast

Cinderella – Payton Mae Bayer, (matinee) Brandy Bures

King – Scott Felten

Queen – Linda Felten

Stepmother – Tara Nerison, (matinee) Kaity Sagan

Portia – Jillian Radtke, (matinee) Tessa Rutchik

Joy – Brandy Bures, (matinee) Katie Keck

Prince Charming – Aidyn Reetz

Fairy Godmother – Emily Beyer

Town Crier (Herald) – Randy Kellner

Chef – Mckenzie Josephs

Steward – Randy Kellner

Townspeople – Emily Beyer, Elisabeth Billings, Joe Bures, Emma Creten, Abbie Dench, Hope Hietpas, Mckenzie Josephs, Katie Keck, Randy Kellner, Emma Knaap, Jackson Mau, Faithren (Charlie) Miller, Elijah Nash, Tessa Rutchik, Kaity Sagan

Children – Lani Bures, Liam Bures, Lipita Bures, Lochlin Bures, Lincoln Bures, Vivian Claus, Addie Kons

Orchestra – Penny Paiser-Wilson (conductor), Linda Kelly (trombone), Amanda Armitage (clarinet), Germaine Dolata (horn/flute), Amy Jo Christianson (flute/piccolo), Gabe Wilson (trumpet, percussion), Gerald Kruse (percussion), Jordan Powers (piano/rehearsal accompanist)

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Songs

Act I

The Prince Is Giving a Ball” – Herald/Townspeople

In My Own Little Corner” – Cinderella

Your Majesties” – Chef, Steward, King, Queen

Boys and Girls Like You and Me” – King, Queen

In My Own Little Corner” (reprise)… to “Fol-De-Rol” – Cinderella, Godmother

Impossible” – Cinderella, Godmother

Act II

Gavotte” – Ensemble

Ten Minutes Ago” – Prince, Cinderella

Stepsisters’ Lament” – Joy, Portia

Waltz for a Ball” – Ensemble

Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” – Prince, Cinderella

Act III

When You’re Driving Through the Moonlight” – Cinderella, Stepmother, Joy Portia

A Lovely Night” – Cinderella, Stepmother, Joy Portia

Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” (reprise) – Prince, Queen

Finale” – Ensemble

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RECOGNITION: Prior to performances and in the printed program, three inductees into the troupe’s Performing Arts Hall of Fame are recognized for their substantial efforts. They are M Scott Bay (an initial member of the board of the 40-year old troupe), Katie M. Schmidt and AJ (VandenHeuvel) Westbrook.

THE VENUE: The 806-seat Bernie Hupperts Center for the Performing Arts is located in Kaukauna High School, which was built in 1999. The theater includes a 50-foot fly loft, an orchestra pit and a spacious stage footprint. The pit is faced with a rose taupe concrete block. Seats consist of black plastic backs, wooden arms and red seat fabric with a diamond pattern in navy blue with light flecks at “first” and “third” base. The sloped floor is gray concrete, with the aisle carpeting of a wavy pattern of browns. The auditorium’s traditional burgundy color scheme is complemented with such design elements as natural oak woodwork and a stained concrete proscenium frame. Acoustic clouds are suspended rectangular wood panels with the overall look reminiscent of a large checkers/chess board. The “lobby” is a spacious public commons that also serves the adjacent gymnasium.

THE PERSON: Bernie Hupperts was a longtime arts instructor at Kaukauna High who was instrumental in launching the Kaukauna Community Players in 1982. He is retired and remains active in the Eagle River area.