For one of her college scholarship applications, my daughter has to pick something she is passionate about and make a project centered around it. Anything under the sun. And what does my daughter love more than most (except maybe her boyfriend, books and great food?) – Princesses!
My daughter longs to be a princess and always has. This anti-Cinderella culture saying girls are negatively affected by princess role models is getting her down. So she’s doing her project about why princesses are awesome. That’s all I can tell you until it is complete… but *spoiler* thank goodness we live so close to Disney!!
Just a couple weeks after she started pouring herself into this project, we were notified that the Straz Center had tickets available for members of Tampa Bay Bloggers to view the opening night and blog about the touring Broadway production of Cinderella.
I knew a bit about this show already. I saw a stage production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella when I was little with my Grandmother and Mother at the Muny in Forest Park, St. Louis. (You know, where they hang out in Meet Me In St. Louis…) My grandmother had season tickets to the Muny for years, and I was often her date to age-appropriate shows. I love wigs, costumes, singing, dancing – everything that makes a great musical. I would share little mother-of-pearl opera glasses to see details up close, and can still hear the vendors calling, “Ice Cold Lemonade HERE!” Giant, noisy fans would come on during intermission to keep mosquitos away. And we’d always dress up fancy schmancy.
But this was NOT a touring Broadway Cinderella. Know how I know? Because 2013 was the first time the show actually appeared on Broadway. The songs were written for a 1957 TV movie starring Julie Andrews. In 1965 it was remade with Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella, and my mom must have seen one or the other because I remember her singing “Impossible” to me when I was little.
Then, when my daughters were little – back when we still had an operable VCR, we had the VHS of the 1997 Walt Disney telefilm of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s Cinderella starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, Paolo Montalban, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber and Jason Alexander. Phew! What a cast! That’s when the songs really got played in my head over and over. The version my daughters grew up with:
Many of the songs in this production are the same, but they’ve added more songs to add length to the show. Apparently they were written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but yanked from other shows of theirs, like The King and I.
In summer 2013, my daughter was interning for the Ray’s Baseball marketing dept, and was asked to review the Carly Rae Jepsen concert following a baseball game. It was the first time she enjoyed Carly Rae Jepsen and thought of her as a true performer. Most people, however, remember the night for her horrible first pitch. Right after that it was announced that she would be Cinderella on Broadway opposite Fran Drescher as the wicked stepmother. After CRJ, Keke Palmer was the first African-American woman to play Cinderella on Broadway and the youngest actress to portray the part on Broadway – plus she was another actress my girls watched on TV growing up. She’s still playing the role now, if you plan to be NYC any time soon!
When I first heard about the CRJ Cinderella, they said it was modernized and had plot twists. And it was NOT just as you’d expect, but just like no one told ME what was going to happen, I certainly won’t tell you why everyone gasped at the end of Act One!!
The version from last night’s performance:
This lush production features an incredible orchestra, jaw-dropping super-fast makeover transformations and all the moments you love—the pumpkin, the glass slipper, the masked ball and more; plus some surprising new plot twists – like the prince learning about democratic elections. See, pumkins…elections… it’s great timing to see this show!
Paige Faure was the dreaming and fiesty princess, and Andy Jones was Prince Topher. For me, he ALMOST stole the show. The only thing better was watching Cinderella’s dresses change right before your eyes in an instant, and the comedy of the new book (script). The audience laughed out loud quite a few times! (“You’d be surprised how many beautiful gowns have crazy women in them!”) You can get a good glimpse of the stars of the Straz performance here:
One thing that threw me off in the show… I knew the prince would sing, “Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?” But it seems so out of place in this new script. Cinderella is not about beauty this time around. She’s just helped him get through some political decision making, and coming back around to her dress and hair suddenly seems out of place. I want him to instead sing about being partners and how she has helped him grow into a man. But, alas, that is not what the great R+H wrote.
As a throw-back to seeing the show with my grandma, I borrowed opera glasses from the Straz for the production. Did you know they do that? They just ask for tips and hold your I.D. as collateral during the show.
There were little girls in attendance in their dress-ups, and Alice got quite a hug from a total stranger – a 6 year old boy who thought she was cute, and there were adorable puppets, and just plain old good theatre. It was also so fun to sit with other Tampa Bay Bloggers! (Lora, Brad, Kellie, Xiomara and Denise not pictured.)
You too can be a Fairy Godmother! The Straz Center, Belle of the Ball Project and the company of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella are accepting donations of formal gowns, shoes and accessories (new or gently used) at the Straz Center during the performances of the Tony-award winning production. The partnership benefits Belle of the Ball Project, a nonprofit organization that provides homecoming and prom dresses to young women in need.
Alice brought her freshman homecoming dress to donate:
I wish they did that with a few of the tickets too… I hope radio stations have some giveaway contests for some little girls who might not otherwise be able to see something this lovely in the theatre.
Parents and Teachers: To help you with some talking points about the show, there is a teacher’s guide here. Ella may have been given new dresses, but her newfound self confidence is the real makeover this story hits home with! Kindness is also a theme throughout the show.
*** SPOILER – you can read but don’t click ***
and if you’ve read this far, I have a surprise for you. The ball gown quick-change of Cinderella’s is so amazing, so crazy-fast, that I can’t ruin it by posting a video here. But if you have 7 seconds, watch this!! If you blink, you’ll miss it! (Here’s how it looks on stage!)
Cinderella is playing at the Straz Center through October 26. Performances are Wednesday – Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm and Sunday at 2 and 7:30pm. Regularly priced tickets are $56-$95 and may be purchased by calling 813-229-STAR or 800-955-1045, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at the Straz Center. Handling fees will apply.