ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
This 2013 Broadway version of Cinderella by Douglas Carter Beane reconceives the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, retaining its timeless magic while incorporating a contemporary tone and expanding the themes of kindness and responsibility.
Director/Choreographer Michael Jenkinson expressed his excitement at the opportunity to work on a ‘brand new’ musical that’s over 50 years old, “I love the old Cinderella, but this one is so fresh. They really gave it a point of view as opposed to just being a romantic retelling of a classic fairy tale.”
In this version, Cinderella (Ella) is a bright, independent, socially conscious young lady. Infatuated by her beauty, the prince (Topher) truly falls in love with her because of her integrity and her awareness of what’s going on in his kingdom. In fact, she encourages him to take responsibility for his position and empowers him to exert authority justly throughout the kingdom.
Cinderella’s longstanding popularity has doubtless been rooted in the beautiful Rodgers and Hammerstein score. With Douglas Carter Beane’s new book, refreshed orchestrations and ‘new’ songs incorporated from the R&H catalogue, the show crackles with vibrancy for a contemporary audience. “It feels like it’s something they would write today if they were around, that’s what’s really wonderful about it. Plus, the book that Beane has written is so charming and very funny,” said Jenkinson.
Among the first regional theatre productions of this new Broadway version, PCPA will employ its hallmark originality in approaching the design of this Cinderella - honoring the authors’ intentions and crafting an experience that uniquely fits our theatre space and our audience. Michael Jenkinson said that his central charge to the design team was to embrace the musical’s sense of “fairy tale”. He wasn’t interested in re-setting the locale or moving it to a 21st Century time frame. He said, “I want to honor that childlike experience of watching a fairy tale. It’s seeing a story and hearing music you know and love, but getting to reengage with it in a whole new way.”
The scenery will take us from the kingdom’s wooded forests, thatched houses and small villages to the opulence of the Prince’s castle. And, because it is a fairy tale, with no set time in history, the costume designer has the freedom to create with a flexible sense of period and clothing silhouette, while supporting the many fantastical costume requirements indicated by the script. Michael Jenkinson said he hopes to deliver a production that will simply be magic before your eyes.
Jenkinson remarked that this show inspires a good deal of nostalgia for him. “I grew up watching the Leslie Ann Warren version, and I loved it as a kid. For me there’s a sense of play and excitement attached to it…something that I was so connected to as a child. I’m just thrilled that we’re doing it.”
Kind-hearted Ella dreams of seeing the world beyond her little corner of the kingdom; but right now she’s forced to do chores for her vain and tyrannical stepmother, Madame.
Meanwhile, Prince Topher is in need of some inspiration to break out of his identity crisis and realize his potential. In a chance meeting in front of her forest cottage the Prince is taken by Ella’s extraordinary kindness toward the poor beggar woman, Marie.
Back at the castle the prince and his advisor Sebastian, the sly Lord Chancellor, are confronted by Jean-Michel, a political radical who claims the poor are being run off their land. Sebastian suggests that the prince give a ball to find a bride and divert the people from this dissention. In truth, Sebastian seeks to distract Prince Topher from some of the less than generous activities he perpetuates under the Prince’s seal.
Subsequently, Madame and her daughters, friendly Gabrielle and self-involved Charlotte, return from shopping abuzz with anticipation of the prince’s ball. Jean-Michel arrives to offer a gift to Gabrielle, with whom he is in love, but is rebuffed by Madame, as she and Sebastian have royal plans for Gabrielle.
After the stepsisters and Madame depart for the ball, beggar-woman Marie is magically revealed as Ella’s Fairy Godmother. She transforms Ella, complete with beautiful gown and Venetian glass slippers, along with attendants and a carriage with a spell that will end at midnight.
Unrecognized by her step-family at the ball, Ella wins the prince’s heart, but all too soon the clock strikes 12 and she flees, nearly losing one of her glass slippers. Later, Ella and Gabrielle share their secrets with each other - that Ella was “that girl” at the ball, and that Gabrielle is in love with Jean-Michel.
In hopes of finding Ella, the Prince calls for a banquet to be held at the castle. Gabrielle makes an excuse not to go so that she can support Jean-Michel with one of his social causes, and lends Ella her dress. When Madame rips Ella’s borrowed dress, Marie returns in time to once again transform Ella and send her to the banquet. Reunited, Ella convinces Prince Topher to listen to the needs of the poor. Moved by their concerns, he promises to call for an election of a Prime Minister, nominating both Sebastian and Jean-Michel. As Prince Topher and Ella embrace their newfound love, the clock again strikes twelve and Ella must run away, leaving behind a glass slipper.
With glass slipper in hand, the Prince must search again for his true love. He has every eligible woman in the kingdom try to fit the shoe. Finally, Ella comes forward in her ragged clothes and tries on the slipper, which fits perfectly. The Prince proposes and one month later they begin their happily-ever-after marriage.
ABOUT THE PLAY
In the mid-1950s Rodgers and Hammerstein were invited by NBC to write an original musical following the success of the networks broadcast of Peter Pan in 1955. The idea came to them to adapt the fairy tale Cinderella. But it was the opportunity to work with Julie Andrews - then starring in My Fair Lady on Broadway - that caused them to take the project to CBS, since Andrews was on contract with them. The adaptation took into consideration the broadcast’s restraints: a 90-minute program with six commercial breaks. The live telecast occurred on March 31, 1957 and was seen by over 100 million people. Two subsequent teleplays included one with Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon in 1965, and a 1997 version starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber.
While there have been several stage versions over the decades, starting in the London Coliseum, 1958, as well as regional and international theatres, it wasn’t until 2013 that Cinderella hit the Broadway stage with this new book by Douglas Carter Beane. Beane told Performances Magazine, “The problem with Cinderella always is: she losses the shoe at intermission - and that gives you the second act just for the guy to find the girl, and that’s really a lot to ask out of a second act.” After declining the initial request and upon reflection, he turned to the original French version by Charles Perrault. What he found was a much richer story. Cinderella had multiple encounters with the prince, one of the stepsisters was friendly toward Cinderella and the sister had a boyfriend too. Cinderella also helps the prince see the injustices in the court.
The other major twist in the story is making the prince and Cinderella orphans, feeling that they were alone in the world. However, keeping true to Rodgers and Hammerstein was paramount, but Beane told Performances Magazine, “…you want it to have a little contemporary life. When she loses the slipper the story’s pretty much over in the other Cinderella. Here, you get to see them and their wonderful adventures and it’s exciting. It’s a real second act.”
Gaining access to The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II, he explored song options which the writing duo penned but in some instances cut from their shows. Beane writes in the play’s Forward, “From the process comes a wonderful opening chorus cut from South Pacific which magically has the words fairy tale book. ‘Me, Who Am I?’ for the prince was cut from the opening montage in Me and Juliet. A song, ‘He Was Tall,’ for Cinderella after the ball, was cut from The King and I. ‘Now Is the Time,’ also cut from South Pacific, will be a great song for the sister’s boyfriend. Oh, I’ll make him a student protestor.” With these additions, favorites from the original version remain, such as, “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible,”“10 Minutes Ago,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Douglas Carter Beane had two shows running on Broadway in 2013, Cinderella and
The Nance starring Nathan Lane. He wrote the books for the musicals Lysistrata Jones, Sister Act and Xanadu, all Tony nominations for Best Book. His plays include The Little Dog Laughed, As Bees In Honey Drown, Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, Music From a Sparkling Planet, The Country Club, Advice From a Caterpillar, and The Cartells. He’s also written the screenplay for To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.
The musical theatre legends Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein
II (1895-1960) had an extraordinary eighteen-year partnership. They were individually
successful in musical theatre and operetta when they joined forces in 1943. Their first collaboration, Oklahoma!, marked the beginning of the most successful collaboration in Broadway musical history.
Oklahoma! was followed by Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. The team wrote one movie musical, State Fair, which was adapted to the stage in 1995, and one for television, Cinderella (1957), which was remade in 1965 and again 1997, and it was reconceived for Broadway in 2013.
The duo’s ability to integrate dialogue and music into a compelling plot was unmatched; but to also include humor, whimsy, and challenging notions of racism, classism, and sexism, they set a new standard for musical theatre.
Collectively, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals earned thirty-five Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, two Grammy Awards and two Emmy Awards. In 1998, Rodgers and Hammerstein were cited by Time magazine and CBS News as among the 20 Most Influential Artists of the 20th Century, and in 1999, they were jointly commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp. On March 27, 1990, Rodgers was honored posthumously with Broadway’s highest accolade when the 46th Street Theatre was renamed The Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Rodgers was born in 1902 to a German Jewish Family in New York City. Richard began playing piano at the age of six and spent his teenage summers at Camp Wigwam in Maine where he composed some of his first songs. He attended Columbia University where he met his future collaborators, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. In 1921 he transferred to the Institute of Musical Art, now Julliard. Rodgers was influenced highly by the work of Victor Herbert and Jerome Kern. Rodgers died in 1979 at the age of 77.
Hammerstein was born on July 12, 1895 in New York City. His father, William, was a theatre manager and for many years director of Hammerstein’s Victoria, the most popular vaudeville theatre of its day. His uncle, Arthur Hammerstein, was a successful Broadway producer and his grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein, a famous opera impresario.
Hammerstein started writing lyrics for the Columbia University Varsity shows while studying law. His earliest works included musical comedies written with a Columbia undergraduate, Richard Rodgers. After his second year of Law School, Hammerstein dropped out of school to pursue his theatrical career, which began by working for his uncle as an assistant stage manager. Hammerstein died on August 23, 1960, shortly after the opening of The Sound of Music on Broadway.