‘I wish every day could be just like this’

The first night of our Snowy Holiday in Kissimmee: the Magic Kingdom and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

The first night of our Snowy Holiday in Kissimmee: the Magic Kingdom and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

The late-night line at It’s a Small World moved quickly, but slow enough for the boys to spot the thousands of dollars worth of coins patrons have tossed into the water below the gangway. The coins coat the bottom of the Small World queue pool like a freshly minted metal carpet.

And if you throw one in, you can make a wish.

Jay tossed in a penny, closed his sleepy eyes to silently beseech the … I don’t know, the spirit of Disney? To grant his wish. Which was:

“I wished that every day could be just like one,” he said.

Me, too.

We boarded the Small World boat with our friends, waved goodbye to the attendant, and proceeded to join the singing automatomic children of the world as they repeatedly warbled the most powerful ear-worm on the planet.

Friday began our father-son Snowy Holiday, a three-day adventure that came our way at the kind invitation of Experience Kissimmee. There could have been no better way to kick it off than to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom.

By the time we walked up the ramp to the monorail late Friday, we already had experienced enough theme park fun to fill a “normal” weekend. But we’re just getting started.

I picked up Jay from school in Lutz Friday afternoon. An hour and 15 minutes later, we arrived at our base of operations for the weekend — our townhome at CLC Encantada Resort. I am always pleasantly surprised by how quickly we can make the trip from Tampa to the theme park area of Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista. It’s great to know we can get here fast — and for just the cost of gas.

Encantada is a hidden gem, and it’s surprisingly affordable. The “rooms” are full-sized town houses. Ours has a hot tub. When we walked in, Jay was amazed.

“This place is HUGE,” he said, then he looked through the blinds at the lanai and spotted the hot tub. This two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath place is fully appointed with the comforts of home. In fact, Jay later said he wanted this to BE his home. Can’t do that, but because we live so near in Tampa, it’s practically in our back yard, anyway. We will be back.

Our base of operations during our Snowy Holiday, Encantada Resort.

Our base of operations during our Snowy Holiday, Encantada Resort.

We joined our party at the Encantada clubhouse and headed over to the Magic Kingdom. This was our first time at the Very Merry Christmas Party, and we were blown away immediately when it started to snow on Main Street USA.

We knew that Queen Elsa would soon arrive to transform Cinderella Castle into a Frozen ice palace, so we weaved our way through the Main Street crowd and managed to get right up close to the stage. It wasn’t long before Anna, Kristoff, Elsa and Olaf made the scene for the Frozen Holiday Wish show.

Elsa, Anna, Olaf and Kristoff hanging out on stage in front of Cinderella Castle during the Frozen Holiday Wish show at Magic Kingdom.

Elsa, Anna, Olaf and Kristoff hanging out on stage in front of Cinderella Castle during the Frozen Holiday Wish show at Magic Kingdom.

You know, it’s hard to believe Frozen came out less than a year ago (Nov. 27). It seems like it’s been part of our culture for a lot longer than that. Disney has wisely incorporated iconic characters and a themes at the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

I have Let it Go stuck in my head right now.

After the Frozen show, we made our way over to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I had ridden it during the day a couple of weeks earlier — on the same day it caught fire because of a fireworks accident, actually. My initial impression was that it’s a nice “kid” coaster, and I knew Jay and his new buddies would love it. The line activities are perfect for boys and girls age seven to about 11, and we’ve found that the wait times are significantly shorter than the time listed at the front of the queue.

But Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at night is a completely different ride. When you can’t see the dips and turns coming, they are much more thrilling than they are during the day. I don’t think I’ve experienced a ride that transforms so substantially — in a good way — at night. Jay loved it, and one of his buddies asked immediately if we could do it again.

From there, it was off for ice cream and a stroll through Frontierland over to Adventureland to ride Pirates of the Caribbean. Small World was going to be a quick respite before we hit Space Mountain, but somewhere between Spain and Australia, Jay hit a wall and we decided to head back to our Encantada townhome. We slept like logs.

Today, it’s off to SeaWorld, followed by an evening of winter fun in the Town of Celebration. Follow along on on our Snowy Holiday using the DadScribe Instagram feed and Twitter account.

Holiday Text to Win Sweepstakes

Here’s the part where I tell you that Experience Kissimmee is offering a chance to win a three-day, two-night Snowy Holiday for you and three of your closest friends or family members. That’s right: You can do this, too.

Here’s how to enter:

  • Text “snow” to 82257

Or …

  • Go to the official sweepstakes website, SnowyHoliday.com, and fill out the entry form.

It’s that simple. The prize includes two nights at a Kissimmee destination resort, theme park admission and tickets to local attractions for the winner and three guests. To learn more or to follow the winter fun, follow Experience Kissimmee on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Kissimmee Winter: a #SnowyHoliday Right Here in Florida

CinderellaCastleWinterWe’re going to North Carolina next week for Thanksgiving. My folks live on a farm up there. Our boys love hiking through the woods, searching for animal tracks, imagining they’re Civil War soldiers or ancient explorers.

It’s a world removed from our home in suburban Florida, where the horizon is a silhouette of swaying palm trees and a “cold” day is defined as one that requires wearing long pants and maybe a sweat shirt to school.

Knowing it’s a bit chillier up there this time of year, my 8-year-old son, Jay, asked with hope in his voice: “Dad, will there be snow at the farm?”

I had to tell him that there probably would not be snow, that even though it will be a lot colder than we’re used to, it rarely snows in Eastern North Carolina this time of year. He was visibly disappointed, but then I reminded him that we don’t need snow in North Carolina next week, because he and I are about to embark on a snowy holiday this weekend – right here in our home state of Florida.

We were invited by Experience Kissimmee to spend a weekend having all the winter fun the Kissimmee area has to offer. Jay and I and a group of blogger friends will stay at Encantada Resort, take in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Celebration at Magic Kingdom, check out SeaWorld Orlando’s holiday preparations, dive into a media preview of the Now Snowing holiday event at the Town of Celebration, and take a Boggy Creek airboat ride at the headwaters of the Everglades.

Jay and I met a big shot with big ears and a big hat last year at Disney World. As Floridians, it's great to have all this right here in our back yard.

Jay and I met a big shot with big ears and a big hat last year at Disney World. As Floridians, it’s great to have all this right here in our back yard.

Whew. That’s a lot, but because of school and work commitments, Jay and I won’t be able to join our friends in Kissimmee until Friday afternoon. The fun we’ll miss includes a media preview of the amazing ICE! interactive exhibit at Gaylord Palms Resort, dinner at Sunset Sam’s, breakfast at the Market Street Café, a holiday treat cooking session at the U Can Cook school in Celebration, a visit to Chocolate Kingdom and lunch at Flipper’s Pizzeria.

(Wait, what? There’s a Chocolate Kingdom? And we’re MISSING it? Oh, we are so coming back for that.)

This is a wonderful way for my son and me to make new memories in an area, Kissimmee and Central Florida, where we have had some of our best times together as a family. Walt Disney World, of course. But also SeaWorld and LEGO Land, and the fancy resort hotels we’ve been fortunate enough to stay at occasionally.

We are a theme park family, yes, and now we’re going to get to experience some of the other fun that is, after all, only a short drive up the interstate for any Florida family. It is great to know that all of this is right here in our Florida back yard, so we don’t have to spend a small fortune to make lifetime memories at attractions millions of people travel thousands of miles to see every year. Yes, Florida residency does have its perks.

Before we head out for our adventure, I want to let you know that Experience Kissimmee is offering a chance to win a magnificent, three-day, two-night Snowy Holiday for you and three of your closest friends or family members.

Here’s how to enter the “Holiday Text to Win” sweepstakes:

  • Text “snow” to 82257

Or …

  • Go to the official sweepstakes website, SnowyHoliday.com, and fill out the entry form.

The prize includes two nights at a Kissimmee destination resort, theme park admission and tickets to local attractions for the winner and three guests. To learn more or to follow the winter fun, follow Experience Kissimmee on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

And to follow along with our adventure this weekend, keep an eye out here, on my Facebook page, the Twitter account and Instagram feed.

There might not be snow on the ground in Eastern North Carolina next week during our Thanksgiving trip to visit family. But we are going to see snow. In Florida. This is going to be so cool.

ExperienceKissimmee

What’s Important

What's important? This, always.

What’s important? This, always.

What’s important?

It’s a question. The question, really. It’s also an imperative statement reminding you to recognize and acknowledge something you ought to appreciate in the moment.

I’m thinking about what’s important. Do you know?

These things we write. These stories we tell. This used to seem important. It might have been, sometimes. I’m not sure anymore.

Now, on a bright Sunday afternoon, I sit on the couch with a football game on TV and watch my older son skip in and out of the house. He’s outside in the November sunshine playing with friends. He’s inside getting a cold drink of water.

I watch him from the couch. He comes in through the sliding glass door and reaches up on tiptoe to retrieve a plastic cup out of the cabinet. He is not tall enough yet for this act to be performed casually. It takes effort, this reaching up. On tiptoe, nothing is easy.

He gets the plastic cup and opens the refrigerator. I hear filtered water pour into the cup.

I watch him, and he sees me watching him. I don’t say a word while he finishes drinking his water. He puts the cup on the kitchen table and, before he heads back outside, he walks with a purpose across the family room toward me.

He grabs me in a hug and kisses me on top of my head. He kisses me again, then pats me on the head.

“I love you, dad,” he says.

“I love you too, bud,” I say.

And just like that, he’s back outside running in the sun, playing soccer with his friends in our back yard.

Was that important? Did it matter?

Do you care? Probably not. Nor should you. It’s my life. It’s my memory. You have your own.

Of course I care. It was one significant exchange during a languid weekend that will be otherwise remembered, if it is remembered at all, for a visit by my wife’s sister from Massachusetts. The sisters spent Saturday night away while the boys and I hung out and watched Shrek.

Did that matter just now when you read the title of the movie we watched Saturday night? Was that important?

It was a detail, a small dash of color. I might have said we watched “something” on TV, or we played board games. Maybe we went to the beach and lit a bonfire and drank Jack Daniels all night while surf fishing for the giant hammerhead shark that patrols the Gulf of Mexico just off Tampa Bay. Maybe that was someone else, or us in the future. Or maybe it never happened and never will happen.

Does it matter?

What’s important?

Right now, my wife and two sons are hunched over a toy circuit board on the family room floor. The TV is turned on — halftime of a Carolina basketball game. It’s muted. As I tap away at a blog post on my laptop, they fiddle with the circuits. A doorbell, a Morse code signal box.

“We got this light working,” she says. “How come nothing else is working, though?”

They’ll figure it out.

But so what if they don’t?

Does it matter?

What’s important?

I feel like whatever it is, I can almost reach it. It’s right there on the lowest shelf in the cabinet. All I need to do is reach a bit higher. I’ll get it if I keep reaching. Just a little farther.

And you’re watching. I see you watching. But I’m reaching, up on tiptoe, where nothing is easy. When I find it, I’ll let it soak in for a good, long time. I won’t let it go until I know the answer. And then I’ll come to you, if you’re still watching, and I’ll grab you in a hug.

I’ll kiss you on top of your head and kiss you again. Then I’ll go outside to run in the sun, where nothing matters but the grass and the trees and the laughter of children under the bright, blue sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Food, Wine and a Day in the Sun

DayInTheSun

One year later, we walked around the world together. The light kissed our cheeks and the breeze tossed our hair. It was a cool day, a good day. A day of food, a day of wine. A day together in the sun.

Epcot’s 2014 International Food and Wine Festival has come and gone. We were there late in the process, a week or so before the finale. It was a cool Saturday, a bit windy. It’s not often we get a taste of autumn around here, even on the day after Halloween.

November 1. The date meant something different this year. It used to be sugar hangover day, a day of trick or treat recovery … and of birthday anticipation. A year ago, it was supposed to be a Disney day, too. That didn’t turn out as planned.

You don’t “recover” from something like that. You get through it and adjust. And on the one-year anniversary, a year after one of the worst nights and weekends of our lives, we went to Disney World for the International Food and Wine Festival – just me and my wife.

This was a day for us. It was a day to enjoy the cool temperature, a day to feel young.

We began the morning at the Magic Kingdom, showing up at rope drop, eager to get started, impatient to taste our freedom. Our feet barely touched Main Street USA as we dashed to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The wait in line already was officially an hour, but we boarded in 37 minutes. It was fun.

That night, a fireworks accident set the ride on fire. No one was injured, and it re-opened an hour later.

We rode the Mine Train, then walked onto the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. We thought about Starbucks on the way out, but the line for $6 coffee was longer — by far — than the lines for Mansion and Pirates. So we found seats on the monorail and headed to Epcot.

The two tickets issued by Disney public relations (for review purposes) were park hoppers. That gave us the run of the place, basically, for a day. Why not take it all in, we figured? Why not go for a three-park day?

That would be too much, as it turned out. We would later decide to forgo Hollywood Studios, but that was the beauty of the day — we had options, and those options were limited only by our energy level and ambition.

Instead, we did something we could not have done if our sons had been with us. We ended our day at the Grand Floridian. More on that later.

Before we knew where we would end our day, there was a world to traverse.

We ate this:

What we ate at Food and Wine. 1) America: Fresh baked carrot cake with Craisins® and cream cheese icing; 2) Italy: Filetto di pollo, con funghi al marsala — Chicken tenderloin, cremini mushrooms, marsala sauce and ciabatta bread; 3)  France: Boeuf bourguignon — Braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes and Gratin de crozets de Savoie — Wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyere cheese; 4) Scotland: Vegetarian haggis with neeps and tatties — Griddled vegetable cake with rutabaga and mashed potatoes; 5) Poland: Kielbasa and potato pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream; 6) Ireland: Warm chocolate pudding with Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur Custard (gluten free); 7) Ireland: Kerrygold® cheese selection — Reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout and Skellig; 8) Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies (gluten free); 9) Roast bratwurst in a pretzel roll, Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen beer.

What we ate at Food and Wine. 1) America: Fresh baked carrot cake with Craisins and cream cheese icing; 2) Italy: Filetto di pollo, con funghi al marsala — Chicken tenderloin, cremini mushrooms, marsala sauce and ciabatta bread; 3) France: Boeuf bourguignon — Braised short ribs in cabernet with mashed potatoes; and Gratin de crozets de Savoie — Wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyere cheese; 4) Scotland: Vegetarian haggis with neeps and tatties — Griddled vegetable cake with rutabaga and mashed potatoes; 5) Poland: Kielbasa and potato pierogi with caramelized onions and sour cream; 6) Ireland: Warm chocolate pudding with Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur Custard (gluten free); 7) Ireland: Kerrygold cheese selection — Reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout and Skellig; 8) Australia: Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies (gluten free); 9) Germany: Roast bratwurst in a pretzel roll, Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen beer.

While still at the Magic Kingdom earlier that morning, we attached our daily tickets to our My Disney Experience account and secured a Fastpass+ reservation for Soarin’ at Epcot. We landed the 1:25-2:25 p.m. hour, which melded well with our goal of eating our way around the world at a leisurely pace.

At 11 a.m., when the festival kicked off in earnest at World Showcase, we had the place virtually to ourselves. There were no lines at any of the kiosks, which gave us the luxury to stroll from country to country and consider our many options.

Scotland was first. Vegetarian haggis — basically, turkey stuffing with delicious spices. Through Canada, where filet mignon from le Cellier would eventually draw some of the longest lines of the day (Mexico, with its ribeye taco, and Belgium, with its waffles, would rival Canada for line length).

On past the United Kingdom and into France. Around the world we walked. Morocco, Japan, America (.38 Special was on stage that night, but we would miss it). Italy. We paused and watched the shadows shorten from the stairs overlooking the lagoon.

Beth in Italy: a smile on her face and the breeze in her hair.

Beth in Italy: a smile on her face and the breeze in her hair.

There, I saw my wife as if for the first time, as if she and I were strangers in Venice, thrown together by fate and food. You ever experience that? A moment of revival. The veil of daily life falls away and life is new again, if only for a minute.

That’s what happened when I saw her sitting there on those steps by the water in Italy. She sat on the steps, framed by blue sky and dense greenery. The autumn sun peeked over her left shoulder and teased her shadow toward Spaceship Earth across the lagoon. The breeze took her hair and she smiled. She smiled at me in that moment, there was no one-year anniversary to process, no birthday to celebrate, no crowd at Epcot.

There was her, and me, the sun and the food. 

We thought about our options. We were free to do whatever our hearts imagined, if what we imagined involved food, wine or themed rides. There was another thing we could do, and it was Beth’s idea — why not hop aboard the monorail and explore a Magic Kingdom resort?

The Contemporary was a thought, but it had to be the Grand Floridian. We bid farewell to Epcot, where the crowd had begun to thicken and the lines had begun to lengthen. We changed trains at the transportation center, moving easily from the Magic Kingdom-Epcot line to the resort line.

An outdoor balcony at the Grand Floridian. Ideal for rest, relaxation and one last Food and Wine Festival memory.

An outdoor balcony at the Grand Floridian. Ideal for rest, relaxation and one last Food and Wine Festival memory.

We walked off the monorail and into a Fitzgerald short story. The massive lobby was white, like diamonds piled on silk curtains. A live band played across the way. Patrons lounged and snoozed on the gilded furniture below.

At our window seat in Mizner’s Lounge, we shared our last hour over drinks and a delicious flatbread appetizer. We contemplated a return to the Magic Kingdom. Small World? Hall of Presidents? The night parade? Fireworks?

No. As tempting as it was to stay — it is always tempting to stay — it was time for our walk around the world to come to an end. We had seen what we wanted to see, eaten what we had wanted to eat, drank what we wanted to drink.

We had been who we needed to be, if only for a little while.

Our day in the sun was over. But we will be back in the spring, and it will still be there.

 

 

 

 

I’m a #HealthyDad — and I Want to Stay that Way for My Kids

Being a #HealthyDad is making sure that my body and time don’t team up against me again any time soon.

They tried in 2008. But I was lucky, and I’m here now to pay it forward by paying attention, seeing my doctor, eating and drinking right, taking my daily medication and exercising the way I’m supposed to.

Today, my physician says there’s nothing to keep me from running a marathon, if I’m so inclined. (I’m not, by the way; but it’s nice to know that I COULD train for it if I wanted. Maybe one day …)

We do walk through the woods at nearby Brooker Creek Nature Preserve as much as we can. It’s a cool, quiet place where – on a good day – we can see deer and alligator and gopher tortoise and enough floral variety to fill a lifetime supply of sketch books.

My sons and I will always go there, and not only to commune with nature. When we walk, we burn calories. We get the blood flowing. We breathe fresh air. We get thirsty, so we drink a lot of fresh, clean water.

It’s a healthy way to be, and I’m proud to be a #HealthyDad!

Anthem and its sister brands know a thing or two about being healthy. You can find quality doctors who are part of their network through their Find a Doctor tool. You can check out hospitals and compare costs — including out of pocket expenses — with their Estimate Your Cost tool. Different facilities may charge different amounts for the same service, but now you can estimate your share of the costs before you get your care, and compare facilities based on their quality measures for certain procedures, like length of stay, patient experience, complications, and more.

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XY Media sponsored a #HealthyDad video contest on Facebook and a bunch of healthy dads won some awesome prizes. Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/healthydads.

Thanks to Anthem and its sister brands who sponsored the #HealthyDad campaign and for including dads in this important discussion about family health care. My views are based solely on my experience as a parent, and not as a medical professional.

A Quick Joe Maddon Story

Joe Maddon’s mind doesn’t work like yours and mine.

There is high intelligence. There is wit. There is humor. There is flexibility. There is nuance. There also is a stubborn streak that served him well with the Tampa Bay Rays.

I don’t believe I’ve ever been around someone who so deftly combines those traits with an uncanny ability to recall memories, down to the slightest detail, and have them at his disposal whenever he needed to make a point or reinforce a seemingly outlandish statement.

He’s through with the Rays after nine years, which is a little hard to believe right now.

It was one of the great pleasures of my career to be able to know Maddon for a while.

I was there, in my role as a baseball writer for the Tampa Tribune, during the early years. In 2006 and 2007, when the Rays were still be-Deviled, Maddon said all the right things. Even as Tampa Bay stumbled to awful seasons, and even though it looked much the same as it had under previous managers, Maddon never wavered.

Things were getting better, he said. There was an organizational plan, he insisted. The Rays Way of playing the game would one day take hold, was already taking hold, and soon we all would witness a real transformation on the field.

He said these things so often, and with such conviction, that I sometimes wondered about his grasp on reality. To that, I’m sure he would respond: “So do I sometimes.”

It’s all coming back to me now: the crazy road trip dress-up days, the wild defensive shifts based on statistical probability, the unwillingness to publicly criticize his players individually, the occasionally myopic-seeming optimism.

Maddon was right, of course. The Rays did turn into contenders, becoming a model franchise under the guidance of vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and Maddon.

Now? Friedman is gone, lured away by the Dodgers. Maddon is gone, choosing to leave when he was unable to reach an equitable agreement on a contract extension. I wonder if what they built will endure.

I guess we’ll find out. I sincerely hope that things don’t go back to the way they were before. The Tampa Bay area doesn’t deserve that. I believe owner Stu Sternberg and president of baseball operations Matt Silverman know what they’re doing. They’ve earned a lot of trust, just as Friedman and Maddon did.

Yet, it’s going to take some time to get used to the Rays without Andrew and Joe. It’ll be weird for a while.

Meanwhile, I’ll share a personal anecdote that gives you a small glimpse into Joe Maddon’s decency.

In 2006, on a visit to Fenway Park, my father-in-law was with a group of his clients on the field next to the visitors dugout during batting practice. He had leased the Legends Suite, and this was one of the perks.

After the writers were done with Maddon’s daily briefing in the dugout, I took the liberty of asking Joe if he had a second to say hello to my father-in-law. He said sure, and we walked up the steps to the roped-off area where they kept the fans on the field during pregame activities.

I introduced my father-in-law to the Tampa Bay manager, who proceeded to shake hands and pose for photos with every member of my father-in-law’s party. Joe spent 10 minutes with the group, and I scored major points with my wife’s dad.

That is only one, small, personal example of Joe’s kindness. His philanthropic efforts in the Tampa Bay area already are legendary. I hope he keeps Thanksmas going.

You’ll want to remember Maddon, Rays fans. Remember him, and appreciate him. His love of good wine, his unorthodox managing methods, the twinkle in his eye as he answered questions, his erudite approach to the game and life — we had it good with Joe Maddon.

We had it real good. Some team somewhere is about to get a Hall of Fame-caliber skipper.

 

 

Twists, Laughs and Social Reform: This Isn’t Disney’s Cinderella

Cinderella

King Topher (Andy Jones) sweeps future bride Cinderella (Paige Faure) off her feet at the Royal Ball. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella plays at the Straz Center through Sunday. Photo: Straz Center.

I know a Broadway show has made an impression if, in the afterglow, I chuckle at a remembered snippet of dialogue or break down an interesting plot twist, or if I catch myself humming a bar of music from the soundtrack.

And yes, all of that happened after I took in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella Tuesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The touring production, which debuted earlier this month in Providence, RI, runs at the Straz through Sunday. My wife, Beth, and I were invited through our affiliation with the Tampa Bay Bloggers group to come to the Straz and watch and review the show.

I knew already that it would not follow the Disneyfied script. I also knew that the score owed at least some of its “juice” to a couple of tunes that were intended to be part of other Rodgers and Hammerstein productions: South Pacific and the King and I.

I just wasn’t sure how I would respond to what amounts to a fractured fairy tale, albeit with a bright and well-designed set, jaunty musical numbers, wonderful dancing and snappy one-liners.

So, yes. Cinderella made an impression.

Beth and I spent an hour re-hashing and dissecting the story line and the little twists that differentiated this production from the more-familiar Disney animated version. We marveled at the incredible, on-stage costume transformations, and we observed that one of the sweetest things about Opening Night was seeing all the little girls dressed in their best Cinderella ball gowns.

While the book by Douglas Carter Beane was sort of a hodgepodge of styles and eras, there were several catchy numbers and the performances by Paige Faure (Cinderella) and Kecia Lewis (Marie, the Fairy Godmother) were superb.

Oh, but those costumes. Specifically, those magical on-stage transformations.

The show, which is based on a 1957 made-for-TV production that starred Julie Andrews, debuted on Broadway last year and was nominated for nine Tony Awards. It won one: William Ivey Long for costume design. Long also won costume design awards from Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle.

I’m not going to give away why I think Long’s costume awards were so well-deserved. What I will do is advise you to keep a particularly close eye on Cinderella during her pivotal interactions with the Fairy Godmother.

Watch closely during the “Impossible” number leading up to the ball — and don’t blink.

The story is only loosely related to the “Disney” Cinderella most people know and love. You can read about the production’s background and source inspirations here and here.

There were a couple of twists that I won’t give away, because it was kind of fun to be momentarily confused about something unexpected that happens on the castle steps toward the end of the first act. Then, it was a delight to be in on the joke when that particular twist was resolved later in Act Two.

This modernized version of the old fairy tale also had a few lines that made me chuckle, including this cute exchange between Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother, who astounded her protege by transforming in an instant into a dazzling magical being from an apparently homeless and crazy person:

Cinderella: “But you’re a crazy woman! What are you doing in that beautiful gown?”

Fairy Godmother: “You’d be surprised how many beautiful gowns have crazy women in them.”

And then there’s the social activism. Wait, what?

That’s right. Instead of a subplot starring a colony of friendly mice trying to outwit a fiendish cat, this version features a starry-eyed revolutionary named Jean-Michel whose ambition is to reveal to King Topher (Andy Jones) that his realm is fraught with social injustice and that the people will rise unless something is done to redress their concerns.

Not to worry. Representative monarchy turns out to be all right with the people, and a bloody revolution is avoided. Which … whew. Thank goodness for that.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella is suitable for children. The touring production runs through Sunday at the Straz Center. For information or to purchase tickets through the Straz Center, follow this link.

One more thing …

The Straz Center and Cinderella have partnered with the Belle of the Ball Project for the duration of this current run. Before each performance through Sunday, they are accepting donations of gently used or new formal gowns, shoes and accessories. The donations will be used to make sure that no girl is forced to miss a dance or other important occasion because she or her family can’t afford formal clothes.

Disclosure: Through an affiliation with the Tampa Bay Bloggers group, DadScribe received two tickets to attend and review Tuesday’s performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at the Straz Center.