Being cast in the lead role in Springstead High School's production of Cinderella is something of a fairy tale come true for Ashley Schoendorf.
As a young girl, Ashley watched the Disney animated film Cinderella dozens of times, and would even pretend to be the character by dressing up and imagining herself dancing in the arms of handsome Prince Christopher.
"It's still one of my favorite movies," she said. "It's very uplifting and hopeful. That kind of story appeals to me."
For the 18-year-old senior, Cinderella will be her swan song at Springstead High, ending a four-year career that had her front and center as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz, Gabriella Montez in High School Musical and one of a quintet of actors in the school's recent production of Nunsense.
“She is one of the most talented, hard-working girls I've ever had in the program," said Springstead High choral director Mark Pennington. "She does so many things so well. I wanted to give her a real positive experience to go out on."
Pennington said his penchant for Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals sold him on Cinderella, which was written exclusively for a 1957 television broadcast featuring a young Julie Andrews in the starring role.
Although the feel of the production is more grownup than the more familiar animated Disney version, Springstead senior Erin Shoeman thinks the musical's lively songs make for a show that will appeal to all ages.
"The songs really make the story come alive," she said. "I think that's going to make it fun for little kids who come out to see it."
Chris Avaritt, a senior who plays Prince Christopher, said that although the part was fairly easy to learn, mastering the ballroom dance scene was quite a challenge.
"I'd never done that kind of dancing before, and certainly never did while I had to sing," he said. "The trick was trying to do it smoothly enough so that your voice didn't shake."
Although Pennington's productions have often used elaborate costumes, professional accompaniment and opulent stagecraft, he decided that Cinderella needed simplicity more than anything else. Aside from some rented backdrops, the musical relies only on pianist Charles Johnson, a former Springstead student, for accompaniment.
"The show works because of the story and the songs and the hard work that the kids have put into it," Pennington said. "It really didn't need anything else."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.