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Dreams come true at curtain raiser for ‘Cinderella’

STONINGTON — If the masses of little girls who gathered at Stonington High School wearing ball gowns and tiaras were looking for a fairy tale, they found one.

Bobbie Doherty got her wish amid the tea parties, ballroom dance lessons and chances to mingle with princesses and characters like Snow White in the SHS Commons. “I got Prince Charming’s autograph,” the 8-year-old said. “It was cool.”

On a recent Saturday morning, the hottest ticket in town for local youngsters was the Stonington High Drama Department’s Character Breakfast, where cast members of the department’s upcoming production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” dressed up as their characters and mingled with local families.

“She loves princesses and everything to do with princesses and dressing up,” Michelle Bull said of her 5-year-old daughter, Lizzie. “This is good for her because it shows how fun dress-up is and everyone can just get lost in the whole fairy tale.”

More than 150 people showed up for the breakfast, a triumph for a drama department that makes the community it serves a priority. “We’re bringing the next generation of Stonington High School students here to the school and celebrating them and the arts,” said Erin Sousa-Stanley, the production’s director. “We’re building … bringing the community here to show them what the department does and what it’s like.”

The selection of “Cinderella,” a 1957 made-for-television musical, like most of Stonington High’s productions, was done with the community in mind.

Students will perform the classic fairy tale — this version is told in a lighthearted, comedic style — at the SHS Auditorium on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Obviously, when you do ‘Cinderella,’ you’re attracting families, and with this version, the children are going to get it but there’s humor for the adults, too,” said Libby Hall, a senior who plays the stepmother. “And it gives us a chance to put on this breakfast, it’s a perfect way to interact with the community.”

Senior Jane Hefel, who plays one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, said that when the children are watching the play, “They want to run up on stage and hug some of the characters. At least I always wanted to. This breakfast, with all of us dressed up, gives them a chance to do that.”

It’s exactly what Lizzie Bull did when Cinderella, played by senior Heather Jackson, made her grand entrance via drum roll.

“Cinderella is my favorite,” said Lizzie, who got her photo taken with the princess. “I like her ball gown.”

Jackson, too, is living her fantasy through the part.

“I have always loved the traditional Disney stories,” she said. “To be able to be Cinderella, it’s so fun, it’s any girl’s dream. The department itself is so great for the high school. I know that it’s made my high school career. It’s the best thing I’ve done.”

The drama department, an extracurricular activity, draws hundreds of students each year. Besides the main cast, more than 80 student singers, dancers and backstage crew members are part of the “Cinderella” production.

It’s a group the community supports. “They’re big into the princess thing,” said Shar Clark of her granddaughters, Jada Overmoyer, 5, and Elyse Overmoyer, 3. Clark took both girls, who were dressed as princesses, to the breakfast. “We play dress-up a lot. They love Disney. We saw the flier and brought them here. We’re supporting the local high school, as well.”

Rounding out the “Cinderella” cast are: Kara Jones, the other stepsister; Lulu Verde, the queen; Dillon Toole, the king; Colby LaMarche, the king’s sidekick; Graham Hutter, the prince; and Haley Barravecchia as the fairy godmother.

Show times are at 7 p.m. on Friday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday; and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“I’m going out with a bang playing the fairy godmother; [Cinderella] is my favorite Disney movie,” Barravecchia, a senior, said. “It’s a story about how your dreams can come true. It’s a really great way to close out my time here.”

Tickets for “Cinderella” are $12 for students and seniors and $14 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the Stonington High School office in person or by calling 860-599-5781 and at the auditorium box office on Monday and Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

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