Olympia Family Theater premieres 'Cinder Edna' as a spunky alternative view

Contributing writerMay 23, 2013 

  • ‘CINDER EDNA’

    What: Olympia Family Theater presents the premiere of Ted Ryle’s original musical adaptation of Ellen Jackson’s story about Cinder Ella and her spunky and little-known neighbor Edna.

    When: 7 p.m. Friday, plus May 30 and 31 and June 6 and 7; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday plus June 1, 2, 8 and 9; 4:30 p.m. June 1 and 8

    Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts Black Box Theater, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

    Tickets: $16 general admission; $12 for students, seniors and military; $9 for children 12 and younger. For the May 30 show, pay what you can.

    More information: 360-570-1638 or olyft.org or tickets.washingtoncenter.org

Nearly everyone knows the story of Cinderella, who is maltreated by her family until her fairy godmother helps her get to the ball, where she meets a handsome prince.

But have you heard of Cinder Edna?

Edna — in the book by Ellen Jackson and the original Olympia Family Theater musical premiering tonight — turns her sad life around on her own, while Cinder Ella (as the book styles her name) winds up no happier with the prince than she was with her stepmother.

“The story of Edna is a parallel to Cinder Ella’s story,” said Ted Ryle of Olympia, who created the musical with help from Miriam Sterlin, Rich Sikorski and other local talents. “They live in similar circumstances. Cinder Edna is just much more industrious and spunky.

“A lyric in her first song is: ‘My family doesn’t know it/It really goes to show if/You work hard, you make your own luck.’ ”

When it comes to writing the musical, Ryle — husband of OFT artistic director Jen Ryle — has followed its heroine’s example.

Ted Ryle said he’s written short pieces of scripts and always found scraps of songs coming to him, but this is his first full-length theatrical project. “It’s a picture book that we used to read to our girls when they were little,” he said. “It was one of our favorites.”

In the early years of OFT, Jen Ryle wrote a short nonmusical adaptation of the story for a classroom group. “That revived the book in my mind,” Ted Ryle said. “Ideas for songs from the book started coming to me.”

Ryle got serious about the musical when he shared some of the songs with Sikorski, who was teaching him to play guitar. The two began to work together, with Sikorski creating musical accompaniment for some of the numbers.

Ryle later teamed up with singer Sterlin, also of Olympia. When the musical was complete, the two raised money to hire musicians to transcribe and arrange the songs, which existed first in the form of lyrics and melodies.

Musical director and pianist Stephanie Claire also helped to finalize arrangements. She’ll play music for the show, along with Scuff Acuff on drums, James DeHart on cello, Daniel Landin on bass, Sikorski on guitar, and Danielle Westbrook on trumpet.

The project was an ambitious one for a pair of novice composers and playwrights: The story is told almost completely through songs.

“There are 23 songs in the show,” Ted Ryle said. “We really rely on the music and the lyrics to establish character and move the plot forward.”

Among the songs is one about tuna-fish casserole. “One of the things that Edna does is sells tuna-fish casserole to the neighbors,” Ryle said. “She makes tuna casserole 16 ways, so there’s a really fun, jazzy song that goes through the 16 ways.”

A lot of the music is jazzy blues. “It’s pretty varied,” he said. “There are a few that are in waltz time. The totally self-absorbed Prince Randolph has a song called ‘Tango With my Reflection.’ ”

Author Jackson gave her blessing to the project, saying: “I like this version of ‘Cinder Edna’ very, very much. The script is clever and the songs are charming.”

Ted Ryle hopes audiences — including adults — will agree.

“It’s based on a children’s picture book, but I can’t say that this is targeted to the same age group,” he said. “There’s a lot of fun, goofy stuff happening, but there’s a lot happening under the surface that is geared to older kids and adults, including some veiled innuendo.

“I wanted it to be kind of challenging,” he added. “For instance, I didn’t want Ella to just be seen as weak, so she’s very melodramatic. She’s a big fan of Greek tragedy and makes reference to wanting a deus ex machina.”

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