‘Cinderella’ presented at Holdingford Public Schools during Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre residency

A rock and roll version of “Cinderella,” set in the 1950s, was presented at Holdingford Public Schools July 15 and 16. 

 Area students were excited to hit the stage for Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre version of this classic under the direction of PFCT professionals Eleanor Panico and Raynee Case. 

For Albany Area Schools student Lance Nathan, who played the part of Mikey the rockstar, the equivalent of the prince in the normal “Cinderella,” seeing it all come together in less than a week was wonderful.

“When it came to show time, it was really cool to see the magic,” he said July 15 before practice began in the school auditorium.  

  PFCT is a professional touring theatre company based in Barrett and has been bringing a theatrical experience to communities across the upper Midwest since 1987. Local children fill the character rolls, and PFCT provides everything needed to do the show, including costumes and the set.  

The weeklong residency at the Holdingford school, offered through Holdingford Community Education, started July 11 with auditions and Panico and Case casting Cinderella, her stepsisters, her cat Dinah, the mice, the pumpkins, the cats, the chicks, King Cash and his assistants, Mikey the rockstar and his band, and it ended with two performances July 15 and 16, with daily practices in between. There were 28 student characters, ages 7-16, with Panico playing the fairy godmother and the evil stepmother and Case playing Poppa, and four student technicians. 

This is Panico and Case’s first year with PFCT and it was the seventh time they have directed “Cinderella” this summer. The goal is to get students interested in theatre. 

To bring the production to the stage in five days, both agreed it takes patients and hard work. 

“We try to motivate the kids and use positive reinforcement,” said Panico, and looking at Case she added, “We work really well together.”

They are both from Missouri with college degrees in theatre. 

Many of the older youth were in previous PFCT and school productions. That included Aleyah Willenbring, Albany Area Schools 16-year-old, who was cast as Cinderella. It was the first time she played a lead. 

“My favorite part is when the mice are on the stage,” she said. “It’s fun working with the little ones. They are doing so well.”  

Kaylin Fischer, also 16 and an Albany Area Schools student, who lives in Holdingford, played one of the stepsisters. 

“It’s always fun working with younger kids and friends, of course,” she said. 

Hope Aronson, another Albany student, has been in close to half a dozen PFCT shows. She summarized the experience in six words.

“It brings together a unique family,” she said.