If the (glass) shoe fits: Family has loved 'Cinderella' musical for 29 years

jshaffer@newsobserver.comDecember 13, 2013 

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Four generations of family members, including Carro Syphrit and her daughter Madeline, 3, foreground, and son Bryar Jackson, 10, and grandmother Susan Holbrook, behind Syphrit, meet Mary Katherine Fuller, who plays Cinderella in Raleigh Little Theatre’s 30th anniversary production of “Cinderella.” The family has attended nearly the entire run.

TRAVIS LONG — tlong@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • If you go

    What: “Cinderella”

    When: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 21; 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday

    Where: Raleigh Little Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh

    Cost: $30 for all tickets

    Details: raleighlittletheatre.org or 919-821-3111

— If “Cinderella” has groupies, it’s Susan Holbrook and her gang of glass-slipper lovers – four generations of family who know every wand-wave in the show.

In 1985, they started a streak of 29 consecutive years with Prince Charming and company, all but one in Raleigh Little Theatre’s three-decade run.

When their Cinderella run began, Holbrook’s daughter Carro was 3. On Thursday night, Carro Syphrit brought her own 3-year-old daughter, Madeline, who has now seen the fairy tale musical four times – the first as a 5-week-old infant.

They’ve collected souvenir ornaments, miniature glass slippers and autographed programs. The Angier family’s devotion is so strong that on Thursday, the theater comped their tickets, bought them dinner and introduced them to the cast.

“I remember when you used to be the Fairy Godmother!” said Syphrit, now 31, meeting “Cinderella” veteran Jo Brown. “She used to be my favorite. Her costume was purple, pink and turquoise, and she would drop from the moon.”

From the start, Holbrook wanted a tradition.

Her parents were divorced, and her father in Florida hadn’t had too much to do with the family. So “Cinderella” served as girls night out: Holbrook, her daughter and her mother, Beth Jones.

“After that,” Holbrook said, “it was just kind of this thing. It wasn’t really a matter of are we going to do it.”

‘Thou shalt not fly’

To help explain, Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of “Cinderella” has always been fairly eye-popping: moons dropping from the ceiling, godmothers on swings, stepsisters played by men in spectacular drag, their hats big enough to serve as Santa’s toy sack.

“I’m the only fairy godmother who’s flown,” said Brown, now the show’s production assistant. “OSHA put the kibosh on it. You have to have a harness. Thou shalt not fly.”

The show changes every year, and it also follows the lead of Ira David Wood III’s longtime production “A Christmas Carol,” mixing in contemporary references such as Katniss Everdeen from the “Hunger Games” books.

Holbrook and her family followed the show when it grew out of the Pogue Street theater to Stewart Theater on N.C. State’s campus, then downtown, then back to Raleigh Little Theater.

“They would start telling people when they showed up: ‘We’ve been coming since the second year,’ ” said Charles Phaneuf, the theater’s executive director. “If somebody comes every year for 29 years, you should do something nice for them.”

‘One of the Joneses’

When they arrived Thursday, full of obscure memories of cast changes, costume changes, scenery changes, they’d been in on “Cinderella” as long as anybody but Brown and Betsy Bates, a props mistress who like Brown has contributed for all 30 years.

Beth Jones, now 78, motioned to her two great-grandchildren, Bryar and Madeline, and told Brown, “If you’re here 30 more years, you’ll still have one of the Joneses here.”

Then she took her seat with the rest of her family, right up front in row C, and tacked on another year.

Shaffer: 919-829-4818

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