KEARNEY — There’s a little bit of magic floating in the air at Kearney High School, 715 E. 19th St., as theater students prepare to present Rodgers and Hammerstein’s production of “Cinderella.”

Written originally for television and then played stage, “Cinderella” tells the familiar story of a young woman who lives in servitude, waiting on her cruel stepmother and self-centered stepsisters.

Senior Heidi Eberhardt plays Ella, who lives among the cinders and ash of the kitchen and is given the nickname Cinderella by her stepmother.

“It’s really iconic,” she said. “Plus, it’s a kind of daunting with how many people know the tale. I honestly was hoping for any role, but reality has set in that I am the lead.”

This musical marks the return of Wendy Fish’s drama camp students from early August. There are middle school students playing the mice that are transformed into the horses that pull Cinderella’s carriage as well as the other animals transformed into the footman and driver.

“With the younger kids in the show,” Eberhardt said, “I’m trying to lead by example.”

The lead actress said one of her favorite songs is “He Was Tall,” which she sings after the ball.

“It’s just really pretty,” she said. “The other is ‘Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?’ The song is one that makes me fall in love every time.

“The musical is magical. I have so many quick changes, including transforming into the ball gown. I’m giddy to do this role. Doesn’t every toddler want to be a princess? ... It’s very lovely to be one,” said Eberhardt.

Sophomore Ryan Avery plays Prince Topher.

“At first, I was nervous because I have never had to pretend to be in love,” he said. “I have stage kisses. However, after some time, it has become more normal and now it’s really fun. It’s such a blessing that I get to do this lead role.”

Avery also likes his duets with Cinderella.

“It’s a little daunting, but we will be fine,” he said. “This is a story that stands the test of time. It’s a big musical, but I believe we are all having a blast.”

Bringing a lot of the magic is senior Jessica Riley in her role as the Fairy Godmother. Initially, Riley walks around the stage in the role of “Crazy Marie,” the older cane-using mumbling woman who receives kindness from Cinderella.

“She is such a fun character,” Riley said. “The old woman is spunky and speaks the truth. Then as the Fairy Godmother, it’s really fun. I believe an audience is going to enjoy this show with the sets and the transformations.

For her favorite individual song, it’s “Impossible” and her other favorite is one of the duets from the prince and Cinderella, “Ten Minutes Ago.”

“I feel like those who attend the show will walk out with a feeling of hope,” Riley said.

Assistant Student Director Lillie McLaughlin, a junior, is also in the ensemble as well as serves as props manager.

“I’m charged with figuring out where actors need certain props,” she said. “I also make sure schedules are given and stuck to for rehearsals. I also made sure that if anyone needs help with make-up, the person gets help.”

Theater is about community, McLaughlin said.

“I have made friends that I may not have made had it not been for theater and this show,” she said.

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