Kevin Ryan has spent the better part of a decade trying to put up Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. It took the executive director of the Island Theatre Workshop (ITW) seven years to acquire the licensing, and in February 2020 he finalized his cast.

Then the pandemic hit.

Now, almost three years later, Cinderella will finally make her appearance on stage in ITW’s first indoor production since 2019. Over the course of rescheduling, Mr. Ryan has had to change his cast, including the titular role and most of the ensembles, condense rehearsal time and weather his own bout of Covid in the middle of production. Still, the show must go on.

On Wednesday, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella opened at the Performing Arts Center at the regional high school. The show begins at 7 p.m. and runs through Sunday, Oct. 2, with an additional 2 p.m. matinée on Sunday, followed by a meet and greet with the cast.

“It’s not a cheap show to put on,” Mr. Ryan told the Gazette over the phone. “We’re really counting on people to turn out.”

Beware, the evil stepsisters. — Jeanna Shepard

After postponing Cinderella in the spring of 2020, Mr. Ryan played a waiting game to see when the show could safely and feasibly go up. The two licensing bodies who own the rights to the show, Mr. Ryan said, generously allowed him to hold onto the rights until a final schedule could be solidified.

The plan had always been to honor the original casting choices but when several of his principals, including Cinderella, had conflicts two years later, Mr. Ryan consulted with his board of directors and decided to hold another round of auditions.

“It changed everything,” Mr. Ryan said. “A lot of people don’t realize it’s a domino effect. When you have one person leave, it affects how each performer interacts with one another.”

“I think we ended up with a really lovely cast,” he added.

That all-Island cast is led by Rachel Cook as Cinderella, Tim Daniels as the Prince, Jennifer Knight as the Queen, Brad Austin as the King, Barbara Binder as the Stepmother, Jennifer Maxner as the Godmother and Lauren Scheffer and Leandra Seward as the Stepsisters Joy and Portia.

Even with the postponement, several cast members, including Mr. Ryan himself, had to miss rehearsal time while sick with Covid. During that time, Mr. Ryan said he relied on Brad Austin to direct rehearsals. Mr. Austin has had previous directing experience, and Mr. Ryan said he trusted him completely.

“I’m not a very technologically-savvy guy…I don’t believe in Zoom for this kind of thing, you don’t know what’s going on in the room,” Mr. Ryan said. “Brad was more than capable of handling it.”

Long journey to the Island stage was complicated by the pandemic. — Jeanna Shepard

Mr. Ryan first became enamored with Cinderella while watching the 1957 televised performance in his childhood home.

“To me, it looked like a storybook coming to life,” he said. “It was very simple.”

Mr. Ryan said that he dislikes overproduction on stage and this interpretation, while filled with magical moments, may not have the Disney-style fantasy some younger viewers may be used to.

“For us, it’s about telling the story,” he said.

Mr. Ryan said he appreciates this particular adaptation for its social commentary, which often gets lost in other versions. For one, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “fairy godmother” is never referred to as a fairy, grounding her role in a more familiar reality. Cinderella also has a higher level of agency and interiority than her cartoon counterpart, Mr. Ryan said.

“It’s a story about faith,” he said. “Through none of her own doing she ends up in a situation that is awful, miserable and yet through all of that she has hope and she knows what kind of future she wants.”

Mr. Ryan found that another small, seemingly-minor detail in the story added relevance to the current moment. In the story, the king and queen mention that the ball where Cinderella famously meets her prince is the first public gathering in the kingdom in over five years.

“They don’t explain whether it’s because of war, famine or plague,” Mr. Ryan said. “But I think the audience will find that interesting.”

Most of all, Mr. Ryan believes that the lessons of hope, high morals and faith in Cinderella will resonate with all ages.

“A good old-fashioned fairy tale is a good thing,” he said. “I believe in happy endings.”

Tickets are available online at and at the door.