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“I am fascinated by how magic pulls people in,” said Thomas Caruso.

This is exactly what Caruso is hoping to provide audiences with the upcoming production of Cinderella at Cape Fear Regional Theatre.

Caruso, who is directing the production, has seen his fair share of magic. He has directed performances for David Blaine and even Dynamo in London.

Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s production of Cinderella, which debuts on Jan. 25th, will use physicality and acrobats as well as all the other production techniques to bring the audiences into a classic story and simulate magical events like the transformation of mice into horses or fighting a giant in the woods.

“I don’t want to spoil it for anyone,” Caruso said. “I would love for it to be like coming outside a child’s imagination.”

Cinderella will feature Cumberland County native, Mary Mattison, as Cinderella. This is Mattison’s first round back at Cape Fear Regional Theatre since she was a child living in the area. Mattison said she was excited when being cast not just as an ode to her “Disney princess era,” but because she spent a lot of time at CFRT growing up.

“It’s where I discovered my passion and my purpose in life,” she said. “It’s a huge honor to be back.”

This version of Cinderella will be a little different from the Disney cartoon or Brandy’s version from the late 1990s. The story will follow Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with a cast of 12 children, who will rotate in groups of six between performances, and more than 15 musical numbers. And of course, two princes.

“Even if you think you know the story of Cinderella you’ll be surprised by this one,” said Gabe Belyeu, who plays Prince Sebastian or the villain in the upcoming production. “It's not your traditional Cinderella.”
Belyeu, who is coming back to Cape Fear Regional Theatre for the second time — the first being playing Lord Farquad in Shrek — said he played in a national tour of Cinderella years ago but prefers the version he’s getting to be a part of now.

For Belyeu, this performance explores a lot of themes and challenging ideas. The characters will go through a lot of development right in front of the audience’s eyes.

“We are really leaning into the strength of Cinderella,” said Mattison.

“ … What intrigues me the most is [my character] is more than a high ideal of what male energy is … he doesn’t know the extent of his power is and the extent of what his power can do,” said Sheridan Anetron Marina, who plays Prince Topher in production.

Cinderella will run from Jan. 25th to Feb. 18th and host CFRT’s usual military and teacher appreciation nights. Tickets will range from $19 to $37. The folks at Cape Fear Regional Theatre will also host a Sensory Sunday on Feb. 11th at 2 p.m.

“We work with the Friendship House. We do classes with them over the year. The friends who have been doing our classes will be in the show,” said Ashley Owen, Marketing Director for Cape Fear Regional Theatre.

While often Cinderella is seen as a children’s story, all the actors agreed that this version will have plenty of story and jokes for both children and adults.

“Everyone will get to enjoy it,” said Caruso. “If you loved Oklahoma or The Sound of Music … this will be right up your alley.”

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