"Cinderella" Cast Interview with Valentina Rodriguez!

Published April 21, 2023

Valentina Rodriguez.

Junior Valentina Rodriguez portrays Marie / The Fairy Godmother

UB Theatre and Dance’s spectacular new musical production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella opens next Thursday, April 27! There are nine performances in all, running through May 7, 2023 in the UB Center for the Arts Drama Theatre. Advance tickets are available at: https://tinyurl.com/mr3j2vwk

As opening day nears, we’ll roll out a series of interviews with cast members and show directors to give you a glimpse of how the joyful, romantic classic has been reimagined for contemporary audiences! First up is Junior BFA Music Theatre major Valentina Rodiguez, who portrays Marie / The Fairy Godmother.

Though most everyone remembers the Fairy Godmother, they might not necessarily know who Marie is. “My favorite thing has been exploring Marie as a character, because of her duality,” Rodriguez said. “There’s the crazy Marie that you meet at the beginning of the story and you’re wondering, ‘Who is this character, pulling random things out of her cart like pumpkins and dirty cloth that she wants Ella to wear?’ You think, ‘Okay, maybe she’s just a random side character.’

“Then you get to meet her as the Fairy Godmother. Figuring out the physicality as to how to make them different, including vocally, has been challenging and a great new thing that I haven’t explored as an actor yet. I love seeing how I can bring those two aspects to life to make her witty and funny.”

Rodriguez has enjoyed the extended building process from the ground up. “Everyone brings something new to the table every day, whether it’s an improvisation that we add to the show, or that’s a beat different from how our Director (Clinical Assistant Professor James Beaudry) imagined it. It’s been great to collaborate with everyone.

“We were joking around about how to make Marie even more extravagant beyond just being the mother figure. Every single time I come up with something crazy he (Beaudry) says, ‘No, I love it. We’re putting it in!’ It’s great to have a director who allows you to have that collaboration and fun in the process.”

What makes the script special is that it’s not just about Cinderella going to the ball, finding the Prince, and falling in love. “There are a lot of different relationships that we didn’t necessarily see in the original,” Rodriguez said. “In talking about it during our early table work, Cinderella discovers that she needs to explore her life because it’s her own, and not just stay in the confines until the Prince finds her. There’s a line that I say to her at one point: ‘It is your life. You have to be the one to take the first step forward.’ I think in this version there’s a greater emphasis on Cinderella finding herself during the journey.”

The cast and crew have had tremendous fun in rehearsals and even the show’s antagonists are entertaining. “The show has a lot of heart to it. Even some characters who you wouldn’t expect to fall in love with, like Madame, Cinderella’s ‘evil stepmother,’ have moments of witty humor too. Katie Lloyd, who plays her, always brings something new to it and we laugh, even though we know we’re not supposed to like her!”

Katie Lloyd, seen here in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (fall 2022) plays Madame in "Cinderella.".

Katie Lloyd, seen here in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (fall 2022) plays Madame in "Cinderella."

What will surprise audiences when they come to the show? “There’s already a preconceived notion of who Cinderella is and what she brings to the table, and the story we’re telling has the same backbone, but I feel like families are going to love the spectacle, from mice transforming into horses and the fox into drivers, and things like that. Cinderella’s transforming dress is amazing. I really think it’s a great show! This is definitely one that you shouldn’t miss.”

And lest young, aspiring actors think that stepping on stage means total confidence, Rodriguez admits, “I have the worst stage fright! To be honest, sometimes I joke that I don’t know how I got here. I have nerves before I go on, but because I’m so focused on delivering and embodying the character, I become wrapped up in their mind and I stop thinking about myself.

“I think about the character: ‘What did they do before now? What did they eat for breakfast?’ When I started learning Method (acting) it helped me to focus on everything else around me. And the great thing about theatre is knowing that you have a community. Even in class sometimes I get nervous, but when I’m playing a character I forget about it. Trusting myself more has been a big thing while I’ve been at UB.”

Get your tickets early for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella! 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.