It's a beloved story that has been told and retold countless times by countless generations of countless cultures in countless variations. And the reason "Cinderella" still enchants even the most hardened among us lies in its eternally hopeful promise of redemption, wrapped nicely in the notion that some of us really can live happily ever after.

But in all of its countless incarnations, including the now-classic animated Disney film, it's the musical adaptation of "Cinderella," written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for a 1957 television special featuring Julie Andrews, that is perhaps the most indelible. Sure, there have been books and operas and ballets and plays, but something about this universal fairy tale lends itself most beautifully to the American musical form.

There isn't much left to wish for in Bobby Smith's new production at the Olney Theatre Center. Musical director Christopher Youstra kept the original score intact, with the addition of a trio of other Rodgers and Hammerstein songs previously used in the stage version. Here, Smith casts his spell with a sweet and straightforward "Cinderella" that deftly draws out all of the familiar archetypes in spectacular fashion.

Here's the wicked Stepmother bossing around her congenial stepdaughter, and there's the duo of dreadful sisters, providing comic relief. The cat pounces and the mice scurry, and the grand pumpkin carriage appears from the shadows. It all plays out with a delightful sense of whimsy upon James Fouchard's dreamlike sets, dressed in rich cream and lavender palettes. The silvery ambiance is heightened by Pei Lee's gorgeous costumes, including the lush blue ball gown created for Cinderella's magical transformation.

» Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney
» When: Through Jan. 6
» Info: $26 to $54; 301-924-3400;

Under Smith's pitch-perfect direction, Jessica Lauren Ball is a lovely sprite of a Cinderella, matched by Matthew John Kacergis' dapper prince. Accompanied by Youstra's small orchestra, they swoon through "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful" together, evoking the aural equivalent of newfound romance. Donna Migliaccio is deliciously sinful as the selfish stepmother, and Tracy Lynn Olivera and Jaimie Kelton deliver plenty of snickers as they chortle their way through the farcical "Stepsisters' Lament." Kevin McAllister also adds a humorous touch of flair as the prince's put-upon attendant.

Ilona Kessell's regal choreography is another highlight, sprinkled throughout the evening like scrumptious little confections, whether it's a lilting waltz, a boisterous village number or the stiff airs of a gavotte.

There's a joke in there somewhere about how one shoe really can change your life, and not to appear too cynical about it, but while "Cinderella" probably won't change your life, it might just add a touch of magic to it. Because fairy godmother or not, Smith's fanciful vision is proof that "Impossible things are happening every day."