When Raleigh Little Theatre opens Cinderella, Raleigh locals know that the holidays have arrived. Under the direction of Haskell Fitz-Simons, Jim Eiler’s adaptation of the fairy tale classic by Charles Perrault never fails to fill this theater with parents and children eager to hear their favorite fairy tale. This particular production sports a variation that brings audiences back year after year for uproarious humor, and that is the stepsisters in drag. RLT veteran actors Timothy Cherry and M. Dennis Poole absolutely steal the show with their flawless chemistry as the elder, straight-laced Henrietta, played by Cherry, and the younger, oafish Gertrude, played by Poole. From their raucous physical comedy to their underhanded sibling rivalry, alongside the stellar and hilarious Rose Martin as Stepmother, Poole and Cherry offer complete entertainment for parents and children alike for their fourteenth consecutive year running as the wicked stepsisters. Their larger than life costumes designed by Vicki Olson, inflate their presence even further. Olson’s festive new designs, sporting a turkey wig for Gertrude, a pumpkin gown for Henrietta, and a patriotic get-up for Stepmother, create larger than life characters for these larger than life personalities that Cherry, Poole, and Martin bring to the stage.

In contrast, Kelly Francis and Robert Steinberg offer appropriately subtle performances as Cinderella and Prince Charming. Francis’ tackles a fairly difficult score with her lofty soprano and Steinberg wins the hearts of the children as he tries out the slipper on the little cinderellas in the audience who kicked their shoes off in hopes of meeting Prince Charming. King Darling III, played by David Adams, delighted as the nearsighted king who was truly darling.

With a strong technical design from the scenery by Thomas Mauney to the dazzling lights by Cailen Waddell, Cinderella casts its spell. For an hour and a half of the evening, parents and children can watch Cinderella’s dreams come true and usher in the magic of the Christmas season.

Cinderella continues at Raleigh Little Theatre through Sunday, December 18th. For details, see the sidebar.