July 18, 2008

Apple Hill Adds Twist to Traditional ‘Cinderella’

By Candy Williams

In last summer's contemporary take on the classic fairy tale, "Twinderella," Johnny Appleseed Children's Theater introduced audiences to Cinderella's long-lost twin brother, Bob.

This summer, Apple Hill Playhouse offers a traditional retelling of "Cinderella," complete with a pumpkin coach and a beautiful princess -- and no male siblings.

But there's still a twist to the story, only this time it's the Jester (Josh Forringer) who's responsible for adding comedy to the script. And Cinderella (Amanda Rees of Plum) and Prince Charming (Slater Simek of Export) -- known as Prince Soapy Suds in this version -- meet while they're doing laundry.

Tina Lepidi-Stewart of North Huntingdon directs this funny children's play and says it's "a very nice family show." While most kids are familiar with the animated movie version of "Cinderella," Lepidi-Stewart says the Apple Hill production is "the classic tale. We're not 'Disneyizing' it."

The director is a familiar face at the Delmont summer theater, where she is serving this year as assistant business manager. She says she has directed and produced high school productions at Norwin High School for 16 years and teaches acting privately, focusing on training high school students for their theater auditions for college.

Lepidi-Stewart worked in various capacities at Apple Hill before taking time out from her stage work to get her master's degree in library science at St. Vincent University. She received her B.A. in theater performance at Seton Hill University.

Her decision to direct this play for kids was based on her desire to "get back in touch with my theatrical roots" after furthering her education. She also is playing two roles (Lulu and Betty Blast) in Apple Hill's current mainstage production of "Footloose."

Co-directing the Johnny Appleseed play with Lepidi-Stewart is Cory Stoken of North Huntingdon, a senior at Norwin High School, in his directing debut. He has acted in his high school productions of "Kiss Me Kate" and "The Crucible" and was Harold Hill in "The Music Man."

About Apple Hill's production of "Cinderella," Stoken says "It's an all-around funny show."

The cast also includes Colleen Friedline of Export as Stepmother; Zoe Simek of Export as older sister; Claire Juozitis of Murrysville as younger sister; Josh Forringer of Jeannette as the Jester; Melissa Issing of Irwin as Fairy Godmother; and Quade Simek of Export, Kenny Lavelle and Joey Lavelle of Derry as the Footmen.

After "Cinderella," Johnny Appleseed Children's Theater will close its summer season with a production of "The Elves and the Shoemaker," which opens August 5.

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