Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella Visits ASU Gammage

Cinderella is beloved by different generations because of its classic story of an underdog overcoming her circumstances to find true love and move up in her station. Audiences continue to identify with the character of Cinderella because of her kind personality, hard work ethic and determination.

The musical version of Cinderella expands on the characters and engages audiences through song and dance.

The national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella will visit ASU Gammage through Sunday, December 24.

Developed by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella tells the classic story of a girl who is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters and goes on to win the heart of the prince of her dreams, with the help of her fairy godmother and glass slippers.

The musical version of Cinderella started in 1957 as a live TV production, starring Julie Andrews in the role of Cinderella. Subsequent versions from 1965 and 1997 featured Lesley Ann Warren and Brandy Norwood as Cinderella, respectively.

The national tour has been traveling around country since mid-October and will continue to run through July.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

While it is light-hearted, the musical explores deeper societal issues such as the power dynamics between different classes of people.

Audience members are encouraged to get into the spirit of the show by dressing up in gowns or costumes. On opening night in Tempe, one girl wore a Cinderella costume and carried a Cinderella doll, and many women donned elegant gowns.

The national tour stars Tatyana Lubov as Ella; aka. Cinderella; Louis Griffin as Prince Topher; Leslie Jackson as fairy godmother Marie; Sarah Smith as Madame, the stepmother; Nicole Zelka as Gabrielle, one of the stepsisters and Joanna Johnson as Charlotte, the other stepsister.

Pictured in photo: Erin Weinberger

Erin Weinberger, one of the ensemble members and understudy for Charlotte and Madame, is an ASU online student in the Integrative Health program.

Originally from Florida, the actress has been in regional productions of Guys and Dolls and Beauty and the Beast. She started performing a child and moved to New York two years ago to pursue theater and dance full time.

Weinberger talked about being part of the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, her first national tour, during a recent telephone interview.

Question: What types of shows appeal to you as a performer?

Answer: I’m one of those people that loves the classic love story musical. Definitely the Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, who did Cinderella. It really shows the beauty, love and kindness that necessarily isn’t in the world today. When you get to the theater, you are really transported into this other land, whether it’s realistic or fairy tale. You get to forget about everything, and you get to become invested in these characters, whether evil or good. And also those show-stopping numbers. Those are the things that I’m in, and that brings me the most joy. In Cinderella, the end of act one is the ball, and it’s a 20-minute dance. It’s just the most beautiful thing.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: Is that traditional ballroom dance?

Answer: It’s a happy combination of musical theater, ballet and waltz. You have to have a really strong ballet foundation. But then you also need to have partnering skills, and you also need to learn how to waltz. It’s a very specific technique. You have to be truly an all-around dancer and singer because we are singing as we do that.

Question: Were any of the dancing styles, especially the waltz, new to you?

Answer: When I was younger, I actually did study ballroom just a little bit. Essentially, it was brand new to me because I had studied it ten years ago. The first day of rehearsal, instead of just hopping right into the choreography, our choreographer gave us a waltzing lesson. So, we were able to go into the choreography with the correct technique.

Question: The cast looks pretty young, so I’m guessing some of them had never waltzed before.

Answer: Our ensemble ranges from 21 to 26, and then the leads are pretty much cast based on their age. So, the evil stepmother is true to being a mother’s age.

Question: What do you find to be the biggest challenge to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella?

Answer: The first thing is learning how to be on tour…There’s never a routine. Some days, you wake up, get on a bus, do a show and do that for five days in a row. And then some days you’re in one place for five days. So, really trying to find consistency and routine I would say has been the most difficult thing when it comes to touring.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

When it comes to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, I would say the hardest thing is the stamina of the track. The tracks are in the ensemble. Each person is assigned a track, and they do the exact same thing every single night. Some of these numbers are really difficult because not only are we singing and dancing throughout the number, but we also have 20-to-30-pound dresses on. And we have props that we are throwing around and things that we are standing on…Adjusting to the stamina of the show every night is the hardest part about it because otherwise, the show is so beautiful, stunning and magical that you can’t help but love to go to work every night.

Question: Can you tell me a little bit more about your track in the show?

Answer: My track every night consists of the opening number. I start out as a page boy in his little boy costume, and then I go on to be a peasant. Then, I go on to be in the ball. That finishes off act one. Then, for act two, I start back off in my ball costume. Then, I go back into my peasant costume. And then I go back into my ball costume. Then, I finish the show. We have quick changes that are going on backstage. The “backstage show” is sometimes faster and crazier than the show that’s onstage because sometimes, I have a quick change during the show, and I have 52 seconds to go from a peasant to in my ball gown. So, my shoes change. My wigs change. My costume changes, and everyone else does it for me. I pretty much just stand there, and people put things on me.

Question: This isn’t your first time wearing a ball gown, is it?

Answer: It’s the first time I’m in a ball gown as grand as this. William Ivey Long is the costume designer…We’re using the original costumes, so they haven’t been re-built. They are magnificent, and they are each 10-to-20 grand. So, these costumes are truly couture gowns.

Question: When you are wearing a gown like that, do you have to carry yourself a certain way?

Answer: Being an ensemble member, you don’t just play one character. You play all of the characters. So, when I’m in my peasant outfit, I’m much grungier, grounded. My knees are bent. Maybe I’m slouched a little bit, and my hands are a little bit more fidgety. The second I put that ball gown on, I’m standing up straight. My shoulders are back. My arms are back. My neck is elongated. It’s a very poised position. That is true to any of the costumes I put on. You really have to develop your character, even though you might not have any lines.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: Do you notice the other ensemble members doing the same thing, really trying to bring something different to every character?

Answer: Oh absolutely. And that’s why I love being in the ensemble so much. You really get to play, and you get to explore all of the characters.

Question: As an ensemble member, do you have to know other actors’ tracks?

Answer: We have swings for that. We have four swings, two males and two females. They don’t perform every night, but they do know all the female tracks and all of the male tracks.

Question: Can you tell me more about the music in the show? Is it very classic musical theater music?

Answer: [The Brandy version] is the version that we’re doing. It’s all of that music. So, it’s Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful? Why Would a Fella Want a Girl Like Her? It’s all that music. So, when you get to the theater, and you start listening to these songs, you know them. The beautiful thing about what they took from that movie and then formed it into the show is they really bumped up the music, put a little bit more sparkle into it and made it truly envelop the characters. So, the characters become even more alive because they truly sing from their hearts. It’s interesting because the music is not truly considered a classical Broadway score…It’s more of a contemporary classical feel. So, you do bounce along to the music in your seat and because you are familiar with it, it sits in your heart.

Question: Have they expanded on the characters in this show?

Answer: They very much go deeper into the characters. They go into Cinderella’s stepsisters a lot, and they go into Cinderella’s evil stepmother. They go into Prince Topher’s storyline pretty deeply…Really every character is touched upon…It’s a totally different storyline with these characters, which is really cool. You’re able to fall in love with more than just Cinderella, which I think is really special.

Question: It sounds like the show has a lot of special effects. Were you surprised by how many when you started the show?

Answer: I’m still surprised, doing the show every night. These dress transformations that happen onstage are truly Broadway magic. I don’t have any other words to describe it. It’s so beautiful that most of our cast watches it every single night backstage.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Question: Are you talking about scenes where you would expect magic, such as with the carriage and Godmother?

Answer: Truly everything. The transformation scene with the carriage and the horses, that’s magic for sure. But also the transitions from scene to scene. What’s really cool about what our choreographer, Josh Rhodes, did [was] he made the transitions seamless. So, you never saw the house coming in until it was in…You’re like, “Wait, we were just in the forest, and now we’re in the castle. How did that happen?”

Question: How do you feel like you’ve grown as a performer from doing this show?

Answer: It’s truly a dream come true, when you’re in New York, and you’re auditioning every day, and you’re getting a hundred “no’s” and your one “yes.” This show gave me my “yes.”  You really don’t think it can happen until it does…I think my whole life, I’ve been like, “I love musical theater, but I’m not going to cry about it. It’s just musical theater.” This show digs so deep into your heart that it speaks to me as a performer because I don’t just like to do musical theater for myself anymore. I like to do musical theater because I get to change the world in my own way while doing what I love.

Question: Do you think audiences will still find relevance in the story?

Answer: The plot is extremely relevant to today’s world. What I appreciate about the story is it doesn’t push any particular stance onto anyone. It does reiterate the word “kindness” and how no matter what that is how the world should be. That’s really special to spread in this day and age…If you really want to break it down, it’s Cinderella. It’s a fairy tale. It really really is, but what makes this show cool is you personally can relate to these characters, which I think is such a happy balance between the fairy tale world and the real world.

Event Details:

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella National Tour

Through December 24

7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday. 1 p.m. Sunday.

ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe.

Tickets start at $25.

480-965-3434.

asugammage.com

About the Author

laurall

Laura Latzko is a freelance writer out of Phoenix who writes for The Arizona Republic and Echo Magazine. She received an master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 2009. She recently started her own Arizona entertainment blog Curious Journalist