Published April 25, 2023
"The Rodgers and Hammerstein estate really wanted Cinderella to come to Broadway for a long time, and it only took 60 years for it to happen!” explained Clinical Assistant Professor James Beaudry. As director / co-choreographer of THD’s new musical theatre production of the popular folk tale, Beaudry is familiar with its production history. “The estate and producer commissioned the new script in 2013 and they did a great job. It’s fun and funny, and everything you’d want from Cinderella, but with a contemporary twist, so it’s not exactly what you’d expect.”
THD’s exciting new musical production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella opens Thursday, April 27, with nine performances through May 7, 2023 in the UB Center for the Arts Drama Theatre. Advance tickets are available at: https://tinyurl.com/mr3j2vwk
The original score for Cinderella was written in the 1950s for a Julie Andrews television special. It was then revised in the ‘60s with Leslie Ann Warren, and once again in ‘97, starring singers Brandy and Whitney Houston. There was also a national tour featuring Eartha Kitt and Debbie Gibson. “The new script accompanies the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein score, though it feels more contemporary than what you think of as a 1950s version,” Beaudry explained.
This family-friendly take on the classic tale features the duo’s most beloved songs, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It's Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago,” alongside a funny and romantic libretto by Tony Award nominee Douglas Carter Beane, who also wrote the script for Xanadu and the stage adaptation of Sister Act.
Much of the modern makeover relates to the show’s protagonist. “The female characters, in particular, have a lot more personal agency than in the 1950s, and the comedy is more in line with what we expect today,” Beaudry said. “It’s the best of both worlds in terms of a gorgeous Rodgers and Hammerstein score but with a new feel and spin.
“The cool thing about this version is that Cinderella doesn’t wait to be discovered as the person who the shoe fits. She has to make the decision to show everyone that it does. It’s really about finding your authentic self instead of saying ‘Oh, I wish the man would come and save me.’ By discovering her own self-worth, Cinderella can put herself in the position to achieve what everybody else seems to want.”
Perhaps the best part is that audiences of all ages can enjoy the show on different levels. “The only other Rodgers and Hammerstein show for families is The Sound of Music, but you’re still dealing with the rise of Nazism and all of these adult themes. This is the only overtly Rodgers and Hammerstein family show where people will buy four tickets instead of two.”
With spectacular sets, costuming, lighting, projections, puppetry, plus as a 13-piece live orchestra, Cinderella will pleasantly surprise audiences. “Cinderella has a lot of unique challenges. It’s not an easy show to stage, but hopefully it looks easy to the audience. A pumpkin has to become a carriage, among other things,” Beaudry said. “There’s a seven-and-a-half-minute waltz sequence at the ball at end of Act One. We had to not only create the choreography, but also teach students how to waltz, and then communicate to the student costume designers about how the fabric should move. It’s one thing to put someone in a gown, but it’s another to put them in one that can be danced in and look good onstage. That’s the fun of it. Not just figuring out how to do the show but to teach to share the tricks of the professional industry we’ve learned, so that the students are thinking holistically.”
“There’s also a lot to figure out choreographically with the (technical) designers, about how we move an actor from one location to another and change the set while the scene continues forward. It feels more cinematic in that sense.”
“It’s actually a great exercise in learning how to do a musical,” Beaudry added. “In most musicals written before Andrew Lloyd Webber in the 1980s, they wouldn’t write a scene where the actors leave a house. The actors would stay in one place, then there would be a dance transition during which the scenery moved and you could be in a new place. I do want it to feel like an old-fashioned musical in a sense, so we’ve figured out a way to use projections to indicate part of where we are, but then fragment it, move the characters around, and change the scenery without pauses in the action. It still feels inventive and theatrical, instead of digital.
“There’s a lot of scenery coming in and out, so often it’s a matter of isolating someone with light in one area while the rest of the stage is dark, then bringing lights up on another part of the stage to indicate we’re in a new place.”
As Beaudry’s first musical for UB Theatre and Dance, he sees the advantages of UB’s combined performing arts department. “This is my first semester teaching as a full-time professor, but I’ve been a guest director at other universities in addition to work I’ve done professionally,” Beaudry explained. “One of the nice things about UB is that we use all of our resources to our advantage, giving students the opportunity to design everything, so that across the board, not just the performers, but the design team and technical staff is in involved in the process of learning. It really makes it a full-department effort.”
“Coming into the program this fall, getting to know the students over one semester, and watching them work on this, it’s been great to observe them beyond what we cover in class. You get a more complete picture of what they’re capable of and who they are, and to see them really thrive with the comedy is great, because that’s hard. As theater is always trying to prove its value, we often default to dramatic work as more important and we don’t always focus on teaching comedy. To see them find the timing in these scenes is wonderful.
“I direct and choreograph (the show) and am working with grad (dance) student Natasha McCandless. We choreographed it together, which is wonderful because there’s a lot of dance in the show. To also oversee the integration of all these design departments to solve technical theatre magic tricks would be overwhelming without Natasha’s support to take over at least half of the choreography, and to pass rehearsals back and forth, as well as with Matt Marco, the musical director.
“All of the dances in the show come out of either social dance, or we go into sort of a dream state which can be more lyrical and expressive. It's the style I like and is really in my wheelhouse choreographically.
“It gives you the feeling of illogical joy that you get with musicals, which is why people like them. They’re not bound to the trappings of existentialism and reality and we can have fun and enjoy it. It also serves the value of the show. It will introduce young people who come to the magic of the theatre in a pure, simple way.”
Don’t miss this Cinderella! Get your tickets early! Meet and take a picture with members of the cast, including Cinderella, the Prince, and more, after every matinee performance!
Please note: American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters will be provided for the May 6, 2pm public performance.