By Gemma Alexander
For its 46th summer production, Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theater, a remarkable combination of arts organization and ecological restoration project, is performing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Incorporating elements of British Panto, such as audience participation (guess who tries on the slipper), cross-dressed actors (fairy godmother), and jokes aimed both at children and above their heads, this version also puts a somewhat feminist spin on the familiar story, without straying too far from the Disney elements demanded by the youngest viewers (Cinderella still sings to mice). The resulting production is suitable for all ages.
While the vocal talents of the cast were not uniformly impressive, Laura York as the royal steward Nell stood out with a particularly lovely singing voice. Cinderella (Justine Stillwell) and Prince Chris (Andrew Galteland) make a charmingly straight-faced royal couple while the rest of the characters are played for laughs. The evil stepmother (Robin Weakland) and ironically named stepsisters, Grace and Joy (Jana Gueck and Angela Snyder, respectively), revel in their failings and hilarious bad taste. Buddy Todd as the fairy godmother balances his role delivering the modernized moral message of the fairy tale with the sarcasm of Rodney Dangerfield.
The play is enjoyable on its own, but it is only one part of a unique theater experience. Hidden in a natural amphitheater in a 95-acre forest accessed by a private road along the Snoqualmie River, the theater feels like an imagined hideout where children play make-believe. In fact, the entire adventure might make you feel like one of the twelve dancing princesses, sneaking away from the city for a magical secret ball. With no roof to capture sound, the rustling of popcorn bags after the intermission can drown out the actor’s voices, but the beauty of the surroundings easily overcomes the limitations of an outdoor performance.
To best enjoy Snoqualmie Forest Theater, families should consider it a day’s outing. Plan to arrive early — at least an hour early — to allow time to explore the paths, discover the river lookout, and play on the little playground near the box office. A hiking trail snakes down the hill to the theater. It is not overly steep or challenging, but sensible shoes are warranted, and families should give themselves a few extra minutes to wind their way down to the bench seats built into the hillside. For those who cannot manage the trail, transportation is provided to the bottom of the hill via a service road. Guests can bring seat cushions or use the ones provided. Especially for evening performances, sweaters and mosquito repellent are advised. Dinner is a little pricey, but since you’ve come all this way, go ahead and enjoy some barbecued salmon in the picnic shelter between shows. Reserve your meal in advance. After dinner you can take another walk through the woods while you wonder what you’ll see here next year.
If you go:
When: Saturday, August 18 and Saturday, August 25 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, August 19 and Sunday, August 26 at 2 p.m.
Where: 36800 David Powell Road, Fall City, WA 98024
Tickets: $18 adult; $16 senior/student; $8 child (ages 6–12)/children 5 and under free
Dinner: $18 for BBQ (Steak, Salmon or Chicken); $14 for vegetarian lasagna; $5.00 for a child's hot dog
Tickets and dinners can be purchased online.
Writer Gemma Alexander reluctantly acknowledges that one family can never see all of Seattle’s kid-friendly arts.