Work behind the scenes makes ‘Cinderella’ shine

By James Grob,

People come to see the acting, singing and dancing — but none of that would be possible without the people backstage.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” will be the Charles City High School musical this fall. Performances will be 7 p.m. Nov. 2 and 3 and 3 p.m. Nov. 4 at the North Grand Building in Charles City.

While the actors and singers are still learning their lines and songs under the direction of Derek Sturtevant, Michelle Grob and Mike Lembke, a host of people have been working behind the scenes to help make it all possible.

Those three directors sought help from a wide range of others in the school and community, and the others came through with set construction, set design, props and costuming.

“We helped them last year with the stage for ‘The Addams Family,’” said Charles City vocational agriculture teacher Jim Lundberg. “We built the staircase and the balcony, and that took a little work because we had to build steps. It wasn’t as big a project this year, but we got under the gun a little bit for a timeline, but we pulled it off in about three days.”

This year, Lundberg’s class was asked to build the frames for three periaktos for the play. A periaktoi is a device used for displaying and rapidly changing theater scenes. It consists of a revolving solid triangular prism.

“Once Derek Sturtevant, the musical director, explained it to me, I figured out real quick what they were looking for,” Lundberg said.

A different scene is painted on each of the three periaktoi faces, so that by quickly revolving the periaktos another image can appear to the audience.

“We built little triangle things so they can switch the scenes around easier,” said junior Ben Naumann, who led the project. “We had to do a little math, and make a jig for the table saw.”

The pieces are 10.5 feet tall and four feet wide. Naumann said they had to be strong, but not too heavy because they need to be moved around. He said it was a fun project, and he didn’t expect to ever be involved in a high school musical theater production.

“Some kids that normally would have nothing to do with the fall musical now have some ownership in it,” Lundberg said. “Whenever you have cross-curriculum things, where kids can work on something, it’s a good thing for the whole school. That’s what’s really cool about a musical, or a drama or play — it pulls in other kids who might not be involved in that.”

It took Naumann and the class two class periods to get the pieces built, then they sent them out to local artist Janeice Bergland, and she put the canvas foam board on them so they could be painted. Bergland is designing and painting all the set pieces for “Cinderella.”

Meanwhile, school custodian David Bahe built a set piece for the musical that is movable and will be used on stage as both a statue for the town square and a fountain in the palace garden. Bahe built the piece in his workshop at home.

Other local master craftsmen lending their talents to the set include Bob Frascht, who built the stage platform and staircase, and Bill Wolfe, who built Cinderella’s carriage that turns into a pumpkin.

Elsewhere, Sandy Peterson is costuming the show. Peterson most recently costumed this past summer’s Stony Point Players production of “The Wizard of Oz,” and she has also worked on costumes for last spring’s CCHS production of “Shakespeare in the Park” as well as “The Addams Family” and “Shrek.”

She said she was fitting about 30 kids for “Cinderella.”

“I’ve been at it a couple weeks now,” she said. “One of the challenges has been finding period clothes that fit all the kids — knicker pants, shoes that don’t have laces, things like that.”

Peterson said she likes to sew, and working with the cast is fun. The most challenging costume this time around is Cinderella’s dress.

“She will be cinder — in rags — and she will turn into Cinderella on stage, without leaving the stage,” she said.

Peterson wasn’t giving anything away when she was asked how that was going to work.

“You’ll just have to come to the play and see,” she said, smiling.

Tickets for “Cinderella” will be available starting Monday, Oct. 23. Order tickets online at or by phone at 866-967-8167.