With a well-rehearsed and thoroughly professional cast of 40 - children ages 5 to 14 - Talent Machine Company's production of "Cinderella" opened last weekend in Annapolis.
Founder Bobbi Smith managed to bring some new twists to the old tale, and her sister, Vicki Smith, created some lively choreography. Sets and costumes reflected hours of behind-the-scenes volunteer work, especially the skills of the talented Scott couple - Jerry on sets and Linda on costumes.
All the elements for another Talent Machine hit were there - except for the full house of families, friends and fans that the effort deserved. The audience of less than 100 looked sparse in the 550-seat Key Auditorium at St. John's College.
The TMC kids are troupers who gave their all in Sunday's opening performance, seeming unaffected by the audience size.
Director Smith expects a lot from her cast, and the children deliver. The high acrobatic level is astonishing, with boys flying through the air in perfectly executed monkey rolls, girls performing one-hand somersaults and the amazing pair of Cassia Martens and Ross Koenig doing butter-tub rolls.
Added treats include mere tots tap dancing with precision, boys fand girls paired in spirited tarantellas and waltzing gracefully at the ball, and some fine singing.
Smith has brought fun and new humor to the story. The mean stepsisters and their wicked mother are hilarious klutzes, short on grace and long on chutzpah. The wicked stepmother (Rachel Scott) delivers her comic lines in a wisecracking style reminiscent of the late comedian Martha Raye, and also sings well.
The mice are funny and cute, dressed in shirts and ties. High comedy ensues in the scene when all the mice have scattered, terrified of the stepsisters, and one little mouse remains perched atop the table happily chewing on his grapes, unaware of everyone.
Playing the scene in complete silence, growing funnier by the second, 5-year-old Andrew Johansen remains expressionless. My 8-year-old granddaughter, Marie, rated this her favorite scene, and she had company, judging by the loud laughter.
Not only are the mice funny, they also have a touching gentleness, hugging as they sway together in dance numbers. Cleverly costumed and creatively made up, the 12 children playing mice are: Tempe Martens, Melissa Schlep, Mia Longenecker, Andrew and Sarah Johansen, Andi Everly, Sami Thornhill, Codey Cooley, Caroline Gott, Katie Brown, Taylor Morris and Amber Spry. Leading mice are Ross Koenig as Leo and Lauren Anderson as Bubba.
Outstanding performances are given by Devin Arbogast and Andrew Sonntag, who skillfully playpages.
Adding hilarity to her every scene is Scott as the stepmother, with more comedy provided by her daughters Bella (Karen Sebold) and Ella (Melissa Bordenski).
One criticism - not uncommon among young thespians - is that they all might benefit by slowing their delivery enough to enunciate more clearly.
Two of the best singers are Elena Crall, who plays Jasper the cat, and Rikki Gimelstob as the fairy godmother. The three pixies - Kaylee Pohmeyer, Taylor Rector and Christina Collison - move the action along, helping to tell the story.
Kelly Brown is an adorable Cinderella, who sings well. Steve Love is her handsome prince, looking great in his royal costumes, and he manages some deft comedy as he avoids the stepsisters.
The hallmark of Talent Machine productions is the high energy level when the whole ensemble is on stage together. This magic occurred in the tarantella danced in the village square and in the lively dancing mice number.
Additional magic was created by the fairy godmother who transformed mice into coachmen and horse, the pumpkin into a lovely coach and Cinderella into a princess.
"Cinderella" continues at Key Auditorium on weekends through July 15. Tickets are $10 and may be ordered by calling 410-956-0512.