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“Rapunzel” sets gold standard for community theater

Frenchie (Gaby Fernandez) and the wood elves (Iyunna Burnett, Amelia Gregory. Lillybeth Oswald and Janiya Norris) direct their attention to Rapunzel’s tower.

Frenchie (Gaby Fernandez) and the wood elves (Iyunna Burnett, Amelia Gregory. Lillybeth Oswald and Janiya Norris) direct their attention to Rapunzel’s tower.

Anyone looking for a shining example of community theater last weekend had only to pay a visit to Greenville’s Ritz Theatre on Saturday to find it.

Missoula Children’s Theatre partnered with Greenville Community Theatre and its cast of home-grown young talents to present the musical comedy “Rapunzel” in two performances on Saturday.

Cast members represented more than just the Camellia City, however.

“I think it’s important that I let you know that we have students in this cast from W.O. Parmer Elementary, Greenville Elementary, Greenville Middle School, Greenville High, Fort Dale Academy . . . Georgiana and McKenzie, one from Crenshaw County, one from Montgomery and we have children who are home schooled,” explained GCT president Mollie Waters as she welcomed Saturday night’s audience. “So, yes, this is truly community theater, folks!”

It was also something of an endurance test for all involved. The cast of 60 had to learn lines, steps and songs in a short span of time. And Waters and her fellow GCT members were there every step of the way, from selling program ads and supervising cast members to operating light and sound equipment and putting up and tearing down the set.

As is customary with MCT productions, Schnitker and fellow actor/director Gaby Fernandez arrived in town a week before the show, their Ford F150 loaded with scenery, costumes and scripts. It was a matter of adding the cast and whipping up an amusing souffle featuring more than a fair lady with long, long locks.

This droll retelling of Rapunzel, set in France, also offered a “directionally-challenged” prince, a troll who specialized in identity theft and an assortment of creatures from billy goats and unicorns to talking vegetables and ogres who liked to play Go Fish in their spare time.

Schnitker, with the able assistance of several student directors, guided the students through rehearsals that started immediately after the casting call on September 19 and continued nightly through Friday, with a dress rehearsal on Saturday morning. Fernandez performed the key role of Miss Frenchie, the onscreen narrator of the play, alongside the rest of the “Rapunzel” cast.

Key cast members included Annabel Rogers as Tower Rapunzel and Ally Johnson as Room Rapunzel, with Roc Thigpen and Javon McGough sharing the role of Prince. Rapunzel’s parents, Monique and Maurice, were played by Ivy Brooks and Theo Bullard, with Shakayla Lee as Madame Gothel, the crusty soul who locks Rapunzel away in her tower before learning the freeing power of kindness.

Schnitker had nothing but praise to share with the audience following Saturday night’s final performance.

“This would never have happened if it weren’t for the Greenville Community Theater bringing us here,” said MCT’s Matty Schnitker.

“They have done such a great job . . . the kids were great, and we’ve never received a warmer welcome than we’ve had right here in Greenville.”