EU Jacksonville: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Fresh Retelling of Cinderella Comes to Jacksonville

Link to article: http://eujacksonville.com/2017/06/01/rodgers-hammersteins-cinderella/

When Hayden Stanes first learned that Tatyana Lubov would be playing Ella to his Prince Topher in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, he did what any modern royal would do. He hit her up on Facebook.

“I didn’t know her before going into the show. I connected with her on social media as you do. I messaged her on Facebook saying, ‘I found out some interesting news that we might be playing opposite each other,’ and I had no reply. I had no reply for a while and I was like, ‘Oh, did I make a mistake and assume something that wasn’t correct?’” says Stanes. “And then I sent another message that was me scrambling for an apology. For a while I was like, ‘Oh no. This is going to be rough,’ but then we got to rehearsals and we both showed up with coffees from Starbucks and just made a connection.”

Cinderella is presented by the FSCJ Artist Series June 13-18 at the Times-Union Center Moran Theatre (www.artistseriesjax.com). A VIP package is available, including an invitation to a pre-show Royal Ball at Jacksonville’s Times-Union Center with tea and cookies, a meet-and-greet with two costumed Cinderella cast members, one souvenir tiara and poster, parking voucher, and seating in rows J-P of the first orchestra.

While this fresh retelling of Cinderella penned by Douglas Carter Beane stays true to the original story with a glass slipper, masked ball and a handsome prince, this contemporary rags-to-riches tale is cleverly laced with plot twists and current pop culture references to create a classic love story for a modern era.

“Ella is not just the damsel in distress. She recognizes where she is in life and recognizes that she is at a disadvantage, but she’s ready to do something about it.”

Cinderella is the story of a spirited young woman who doesn’t allow her economic status to derail her quest for kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. She longs to escape the drudgery of her work at home in the hopes of working to better the world around her. Ella fights not only for her dreams, but forces Prince Topher to open his eyes to realize his own dreams.

“Ella is not just the damsel in distress. She recognizes where she is in life and recognizes that she is at a disadvantage, but she’s ready to do something about it,” says Stanes. “That’s one of my favorite parts. Providing this sort of feminist message in this show is really incredible for young girls in the audience to watch. The message of kindness is one of the most important messages that this show delivers.”

“It’s going to be different than anyone else playing the part, so it was a fun process and I think it worked really well. This role has challenged and pushed me.”

With a shared bond over caffeine intact, Stanes says he and Lubov cemented their relationship during the early rehearsal days early days in New York. “Our amazing director found fun ways to really make us connect and continuously change the way we were doing our scenes to better fit what Tatyana and I both bring to the table,” says Stanes. “It’s going to be different than anyone else playing the part, so it was a fun process and I think it worked really well. This role has challenged and pushed me.”

Carter Beane authored the script based on the made for TV version of Cinderella that aired in 1965. For Stanes, the addition of the new plot twists including an election and contemporary humor make the show more relatable to audiences. “They’re very quick, witty little things and still very much in the style of Cinderella. The way he writes his humor is very much for contemporary audiences. It’s just witty in that way. He still stylizes in a kingdom in some early century, it’s still contemporary writing. Updating the actual verbiage in the script makes it easier for people to connect to this version,” he says.

“Of course, everything still takes place in the Kingdom, but there is a whole political subplot that happens with hosting an election. It comes from the pursuit of Prince Topher to correct the wrongdoings in his kingdom, but also him listening to Cinderella’s advice. Within that political subplot, there is some interesting, relevant humor right now.”

In this retelling of Cinderella, each character is further carved out with new dimensions added to the traditional roles. While the two wicked step sisters are still evil and nasty along with the evil stepmother, the script includes new subplots within the framework of the original story.

“One is still on the evil and nasty route but a little more aloof, and the other one actually has her own story and falls in love with the local town herald who turns out to be the socialist that’s involved with the whole election,” says Stanes. “It’s the same thing with Ella and Topher.”

As the dashing prince, Stanes says his Topher is more than just great hair and a chiseled jawline. He starts out a clueless young boy and ends the show as an effective and learned man with the help of the people around him, particularly Ella.

“It was important not to give in to the general idea of what a Prince Charming should be, that he has it all together and comes in and saves the day. This version is not that.”

“It was important not to give in to the general idea of what a Prince Charming should be, that he has it all together and comes in and saves the day. This version is not that. The first thing he does is ask ‘Who am I?’ in the very first song he sings. He’s just coming back, presumably from college, to his kingdom that he hasn’t set foot in for quite some time. He’s trying to figure out how to be an effective leader and he has a lot of learn. He’s asking these pretty existential questions about what his purpose is. It’s a very different introduction to Prince Charming and that was an interesting. The show makes it possible for these characters to have an amazing journey.”

During the masked ball, Ella challenges the ballroom guests with the concept of kindness that has long been absent from the kingdom. Stanes says the guests are lifted from a constant state of ridiculing and being mean to one another to realizing how good it feels like to be nice to each other. “It’s an on-the-nose message but I think it’s an important one,” he says. “When it’s something as valuable as kindness, I don’t think there is anything wrong with spoon feeding it.”

Get tickets and more info at www.artistseriesjax.com.

SOCIAL MEDIA