Jade Rayner, as Cindy Ella, looks over her prom slippers, gift from her fairy godmothers portrayed by Kendell Davis, Melissa Humphries and Belladina Starr. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Cinderella is one of those fairy tales that typically gets relegated to the nostalgia for true love never-ending, but the McNary High School drama department will shake off the dust and bring the tale to life in a new form this week with the debut of Cindy Ella’s Going to the Ball, Baby.

Celt Melissa Humphries, who plays fairy godmother Big Mama, believes audiences are in for a treat.

“I want them to experience a classic that we grew up with in a different way. I want them to reminisce about the story they knew and then grow up with it a little bit,” Humphries said. “Cindy Ella is grown up now and she’s got her own thing.”

Shows are slated March 16-17 and March 22-24. Curtain time is 7 p.m. each day. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.

The story is a updated take on the classic tale, in which few things are precisely what they seem.

“If you look for example at the evil stepmother and stepsisters, they’re all glamour, all pink and yet they’re horrible, evil people who no one wants to be around. By the same token, you have Cindy Ella who is a good person and has the same trouble connecting with other people,” said Gabe Kenny, director of the play and a student at Willamette University.

Jade Rayner plays the titular Cindy Ella and said working through the comedic moments has helped her learn a lot about acting, but she hopes that audiences enjoy the slightly off-kilter retelling.

“Instead of thinking you know exactly which person Cindy Ella is going to be with it’s a big surprise at the end,” she said.

Humphries said Big Mama’s big presence on stage continues to push her limits.

“She’s big and she’s loud and you can’t hold back for one moment. That’s also when you have the most fun, when you completely let go and bring yourself to the character. Big Mama requires that 100 percent of the time,” she said.

Kenny said he’s enjoyed working with students to bring life to the script in ways that have been truly collaborative.

“I’ll come up with some base idea of how to do something or say something and they’ll use that and put their own spin on it and evolve it,” he said.

Julia Fegles and Julia Sjakovs have been a big part of that organic development as the evil stepsisters Prissy and Missy, respectively.

“Our characters are really outrageous and, since we were friends before this, it was easy to collaborate on ways to make funny things even funnier,” Fegles said.

It didn’t take long for them to discover that they were very much on the same page in creating their roles.

“There are twin moments when we’re doing the same things and we don’t realize that we’re doing them,” Sjakovs said.

Big themes have been a hallmark of the McNary plays this year with Antigone and West Side Story. While Cindy Ella has an abundance of comedic elements, the issues it tackles are no less relevant.

“It tackles things that most people experience in high school,” Kenny said. “What’s nice is that it uses the language to connect with exactly that audience.”