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Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella

Aug 3, 2015

‘Cinderella’ for our times arrives at the Peace Center

Greenville News

Paul Hyde, [email protected] 7:01 p.m. EDT July 29, 2015

In 2012, Douglas Carter Beane was given the task of creating a “Cinderella” for our times — with a plucky, idealistic title character.

Beane’s dialogue would be used in a new stage version of the classic TV musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

“Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” with Beane’s new book, debuted to rave reviews on Broadway in 2013.

On Tuesday, the Tony Award-winning show opens at Greenville’s Peace Center for eight performances through Aug. 9.

As he sought to offer a new take on “Cinderella,” Beane didn’t touch Rodger’s now-classic songs, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”

But Beane and the producers wanted the title character to take charge of her own destiny.

They wanted her to be more than a pretty face with the right shoe size.

“We asked ourselves, ‘Is there a way we can make Cinderella an active character — so she’s not just a woebegone servant girl who has things happen to her?’”

Beane turned to the original fairytale by Charles Perrault. What he found was a gutsier heroine.

“When I read the original story, I was astounded by how active she was and all the choices she made and how she turned the whole kingdom around by her kindness,” Beane said, speaking by phone from his home in New York City.

“I thought, ‘I’d like to tell that story.’”

Beane kept all the familiar touchstones of the tale, which centers on a young chambermaid who becomes a princess with the help of a fairy godmother. Beane and the producers wanted to make sure that the musical would still appeal to children and adults alike.

In Beane’s version of the story, however, Cinderella becomes more of a reformer, encouraging the prince to recognize the oppressive shenanigans of the Lord Protector and take back the government on behalf of the suffering people.

The show has even sparked debate on the road about whether today’s society could benefit by embracing this modern Cinderella’s values.

“A lot of writers are discussing ‘Cinderella,’ what the messages of the show are and how they’re important to our age,” Beane said.

“Kindness, forgiveness and thinking of other people’s feelings are attributes that are praised in this story,” he added. “By contrast, in the world of reality TV, those are the worst things you can ever have.”

While he kept the best-known songs in the show, Beane added four others from the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog, including “Now Is the Time,” a rousing call for social change that was cut from “South Pacific.”

Beane called himself “a huge Rodgers and Hammerstein fan.”

“I was raised on their music,” Beane said. “When my family took long car trips, we’d put their music on, and sing along. It was a big part of my experience growing up.”

The Broadway tour coming to the Peace Center features a cast of more than two dozen, with Paige Faure as Cinderella, the role she played on Broadway.

Stage magic

This production, directed by Mark Brokaw, boasts plenty of stage magic, with a flying fairy godmother and a pumpkin changing into a coach even as Cinderella is transformed from a servant into a ball gowned beauty.

“It’s remarkable to see and the audience always cheers and applauds,” Beane said.

This staging also is notable for its lavish sets and costumes.

“The sets are even more spectacular than the Broadway version because we have more room backstage on tour,” Beane said.

William Ivey Long, a legend in costume design who spent some of his childhood in South Carolina, won a Tony Award for his colorful work for “Cinderella.”

“He likes to design each costume differently for each actor,” Beane said. “He likes to make every costume personal to that performer.”

Beane’s own credits include the screenplay of the cult classic “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar,” and several plays including “The Country Club,” “The Little Dog Laughed” and “As Bees in Honey Drown.” He also co-wrote the book for the musical “Sister Act,” which came to the Peace Center a few years ago.

Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein wrote “Cinderella” for TV in 1957, featuring Julie Andrews. It was seen by more than 100 million people or about 60 percent of the U.S. population at the time. It was the only show that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for television.

Staged versions of the musical soon followed. Rodgers would later produce another TV version in 1965, this one starring Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella. Yet another version, starring Brandy Norwood, was released by Disney in 1997.

This year, Disney released a critically acclaimed non-musical version of “Cinderella,” starring Lily James.

For the latest in local arts news and reviews, follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

YOU CAN GO

What: “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella”

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday (Aug. 4-6); also 8 p.m. Aug. 7; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Aug. 8; and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 9

Where: Peace Center Concert Hall, downtown Greenville

Tickets: $55 to $85

Information: 864-467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org