Over the course of their careers, musical collaborators Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein cast nuns and nurses, carnies and cowboys into the maw of love, so it's no surprise that eventually they would turn their attentions to the ultimate royal romance - Cinderella.
The musical, being staged through Sunday by the Augusta Players, marries the timeless tale of princes, paupers and pumpkins on parade with the distinctive Rodgers and Hammerstein musical style.
"South Pacific has been done and redone," said Debi Ballas, who plays the less-than-lovely stepmother in the production. "So have Carousel and Sound of Music. But there are few stories and musicals that can appeal to an entire family. Cinderella has that. It's funny, which appeals to an older audience, has wonderful music and the fairy tale setting and characters that appeal to children."
Unlike many Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, Cinderella has no Nazis or gun-toting drifters that might cause musical nightmares in children. Instead, it has a familiar story with a happy ending. Because its theme is so fanciful, Cinderella has sometimes been written off as being too fluffy and sweet - a confection with no real value.
"That's the appeal," said Vickie Patteson, who plays Joy, one of Cinderella's stepsisters. "Parents don't need to be frightened by this. They know exactly what is going to happen and exactly what to expect. They won't be embarrassed to sit next to their children and watch this show."
It is that familiarity, the intimate relationship people have with the orphan in rags, her fairy godmother and the fragile footwear, that offers acting challenges.
"Everybody knows this," said Emily Hobbs, who plays Cinderella. "You have to find new ways to tell this again to be successful. What you want is for people to walk away with something different."
And though the story has been told in countless permutations, its message, the basic idea at its core, remains appealing. Brandon Brune, who plays the prince, said it's a theme that enjoys a certain measure of timelessness.
"It's a story we can all relate to," he said. "Everybody has a wish they think they can't achieve. This story says you can get that wish. It's something we all hope for."
WHAT: Cinderella, presented by the Augusta Players
WHEN: 8 tonight and Saturday night, 3 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org