A fairy godmother believes she’s giving medieval maiden Ella a blessing when she bestows the gift of obedience upon her.

It solved the problem of her constant crying as an infant, but it causes a much bigger burden, almost a curse.

Ella’s mother tries to teach her to resist this gift that prevents her from saying “no,” but the magic has more power than Mom. So Ella must keep the curse a secret so that others can’t manipulate her.

This all goes awry when her mother dies and her father marries an evil woman with two equally nasty daughters, who learn about the curse and torment Ella.

While it has similarities to “Cinderella,” this story is “Ella Enchanted,” a musical premiering Friday at the Rose Theater. Writer Karen Zacharias and composer Deborah Wicks La Puma adapted a 1997 novel by Gail Carson Levine for the stage.

Ella (Aguel Lual) goes on a quest to get rid of the spell and find her free will. She discovers she is brave, intelligent and selfless, and learns she has inner strength. She meets ogres, giants, even a magical bird along the way. She also finds a best friend, Prince Charmont (Marcel Daly), who appreciates her love of languages and helps her gain confidence.

It’s fun and frolicking, but it also has lessons for kids, Zacharias said.

“It carries a powerful message about each child’s responsibility to discover his or her own unique voice and use it to make the world a better and more inclusive place,” she said. “It encourages children to resist bullies, to resist oppression and to find the true magic of common language and common ground.”

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Guest director Nik Whitcomb wanted to mix qualities of a fairy-tale world with a story told in a contemporary way, like it was seen through the filter of Instagram.

Costumes by Zach Kloppenborg are one way he achieved that. They have the familiar conical hats and long wide sleeves, but are made in modern materials such as leopard print and buffalo plaid.

Whitcomb said he thinks “Ella Enchanted” tells an important and relevant story, exploring the implications of having to obey orders no matter what.

“What does it mean to have your own autonomy?” he said. “And what does it look like when that is taken away, and the world is moving around you, but you don’t have control over your own choices?”

The show runs on weekends through Nov. 10. On opening night, families are invited to come in costume at 6:40 p.m. for an onstage parade before the show begins at 7. A horse and carriage also will be on display outside the theater that evening.

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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