Arts and Entertainment

Cinderella takes a stand

Kelli Niemeyer, 16, plays Cindy, a.k.a. Cinderella, in the Theater Arts Guild production of “Cinderella” to be presented May 8 -10 at Byrnes Performing Arts Center. The monkey on the lower right is played by Eli DeJong, son of the principal of Arlington’s Haller Middle School. The other animals are from top left, the white dog with brown ears is Hailey Azure, the bear is Alaina Douhaniuk and the lion is Sophie Stewart and the green frog behind Cindy is Kamira Hamilton. - Courtesy photo
Kelli Niemeyer, 16, plays Cindy, a.k.a. Cinderella, in the Theater Arts Guild production of “Cinderella” to be presented May 8 -10 at Byrnes Performing Arts Center. The monkey on the lower right is played by Eli DeJong, son of the principal of Arlington’s Haller Middle School. The other animals are from top left, the white dog with brown ears is Hailey Azure, the bear is Alaina Douhaniuk and the lion is Sophie Stewart and the green frog behind Cindy is Kamira Hamilton.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

This Cinderella is different than your standard Disney’s Cinderella, said Harold Page, one of three producers of Skagit County’s Theater Arts Guild production that is scheduled in Arlington’s Byrnes Performing Arts Center May 8 - 10.

“She’s got spunk,” Page said. “She’s not looking for Prince Charming, she wants someone who respects her for her brains.”

Although she wears the traditional clothes of the fairy tale, they call her Cindy. Cindy is played by a Camano Island teenager, Kelli Niemeyer, 16, who got her start in live theater in “The Sound of Music,” when she was 8.

“My Cindy is looking for someone to really love me,” Niemeyer said.

“I do start out the show as a bit of a brat,” she admitted.

In the opening scene, the character gets mad at her mother, cursing as teens are want to do. “I wish I didn’t have a mother,” Cindy announces before falling asleep amid her collection of stuffed animals.

It’s your classic, watch what you wish for, as Cindy wakes up in her dreams surrounded by live animals and with a stepmom and two stepsisters.

One of those animals, the monkey is played by the 8-year-old son of Eric DeJong, principal at Haller Middle School.

“He had a chance to do some acting with the Missoula Children’s Theater at his school at Big Lake, and then we heard about the TAG group call for auditions, and mentioned it to him,” Eric DeJong said, explaining how his son got the role.

“It stretched him,” DeJong said. “He learned a lot and met a lot of nice people. It was a lot of fun, even for the parents.”

Eric and his wife are also involved in the production, helping the backstage crew.

“I hope no one sees me,” he said. “I will be dressed in black which is supposed to blend with the backstage background.”

The production already ran three weekends at McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon in March, with two weekday productions for school groups.

“Our mission is to promote love for live theater,” said Page, also a board member of the nonprofit theater group.

“We are exploring the possibility of presenting our shows at Arlington’s BPAC, but the tickets are not selling well,” Page said on April 22.

“We lowered the ticket prices for Arlington and changed the Saturday evening show to a 2 p.m. matinee,” Page said, adding he and the board were concerned because the high school jazz band’s Swing into Spring event was scheduled at the high school on the same weekend, May 8 and 9.

“The board is willing to take a bit of a loss to develop an audience, but only to a certain extent,” he said.

“We made $70,000 over three weekends at the McIntyre, and basically broke even,” Page said, explaining the cost of doing these large scale productions.

“We are a nonprofit, so no one will get a paycheck whether it’s a success or not,” he said.

“We can live with losing $5,000, but my board is loathe to lose $14,000,” the cost to present the three shows in Arlington.

“The musical really is something special,” Page said. “The cast of 50 people, range in age from 7 to the mid 70s, with the majority of them teenagers. It appeals to all ages. The step sisters and their mother are quite funny,” he said.

The director Scott McDade, did not want to cast a blonde for the role, Page said, but they chose Niemeyer because she could sing.

“It was the wow factor that made him choose her.”

He said the animals that come to life are played by five of the cutest little kids you’ve ever seen, and the king and queen are fairly typical parents in that they really are hoping to have grandkids, though the prince doesn’t seem interested.

“The prince is an airheaded guy who wanders through life thinking all the girls love him,” Page said.

Prince Charming, is played by a 26-year-old, Alex Hollingsworth from Camano Island. When Cindy meets him, she doesn’t know he is the prince, because he had given his cape to his side kick. She falls in love with him thinking he’s just an ordinary guy.

“Cindy wasn’t interested in the prince because he had such a bad reputation,” Niemeyer said.

“The musical has a very good message and is lots of fun for family entertainment,” she said.

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