NEW CARLISLE — New Prairie High School's first theatrical production inside its new, state-of-the-art performing arts center is sure to be a magical affair.

The school will stage its student-production of "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella" this weekend, with performances at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets will be available at the door, costing $8 for adults and $5 for students, children and senior citizens.

The show is a musical adaptation of the beloved fairy tale, which focuses on Cinderella, a young woman who lives in servitude under her wicked stepmother and vindictive stepsisters. With the help of a magical fairy godmother, though, she is able to temporarily disguise herself as a princess and attend a royal ball celebrating the prince's 21st birthday — at least until the stroke of midnight.

The family-friendly story, loved by young and old alike, is a perfect fit for NPHS' first student theater production inside the school's recently opened performing arts center, said director Kortney Brennan.

"We wanted to do something everyone would want to come out to see," Brennan said.

Brennan and nearly 60 students involved in the production have been preparing for Friday's debut since August, the director said. With the auditorium still under construction as the fall semester rolled around, though, the production has faced several challenges finding a place to practice, she said.

"We've been rehearsing in hallways, using any space we could find, then getting into the auditorium whenever we could," Brennan said.

The production team has also had to learn the facility's advanced lighting and sound systems, along with the other new amenities the auditorium offers, the director said.

Despite the occasional difficulty, many inside and outside NPHS stepped up and lent a hand these past several months. 

Visual Art teacher Ashley Regal designed the musical's elaborate set, which has a paper cutout appearance to it, Brennan said. A company out of Elkhart also helped out, using a laser cutter to shape many of the elements featured on stage.

Students with engineering instructor Frank Hobart's class also helped build a set of miniature legs for the carriage — made by a local theater lover — Cinderella takes to the ball at the end of the first act, Brennan said.

Finally, 20 NPHS students will perform the show's music from the new auditorium's orchestra pit, located in front of the stage. 

The show will showcase the on-stage talents of 30 teenage actors and actresses, with junior Molly Lenig leading the cast as the play's titular character.

Lenig is starring in her fifth NPHS play, with starring roles in the school's production of "Peter Pan and Wendy" this past spring and last year's "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."

A big fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage adaption — "I listen to the music all the time" — the junior said she was initially nervous about stepping into Cinderella's glass slippers. She was able to get into character quickly, though, as the student has a lot in common with the heroine, she said.

"She befriends all the misfits, which is kind of how I am," Lenig said.

The student-actress also appreciates the subtle differences between the musical's interpretation of Cinderella and that of the famous Disney film, saying that the stage version of the character is a bit more sophisticated in how she interacts with the other characters.

The role has also offered Lenig more challenges than in previous NPHS shows. In addition to having to memorize more lines, she also has to pull off some impressive tricks on stage, including transforming from Cinderella's ordinary clothes to her fancy gown.

Lenig and the rest of the cast have worked extremely hard to develop their chemistry over the past several months, as well, she said.

"I think [audiences] will enjoy the show," she said.

Brennan shares the teenager's enthusiasm for opening night, which will showcase not only the students' efforts but also the school's fancy new home for the performing arts. 

"I'm excited for the community to come in and see the auditorium they made happen for us," she said.

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