andrew kruse-Ross | cinderella | march 2018
The glass slipper. The pumpkin transformed into a carriage. The Prince's ball. The Weidner Center promises to be a magical place when “Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella" visits the venue for two performances on March 31.
Originally produced for television and starring Julie Andrews in the lead role of Ella, “Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella" was viewed by more than 100 million viewers — roughly 60 percent of the US population at the time — when it aired in 1957.
Another 80 million tuned in for remakes that aired in 1965 and 1997. Those versions starred Lesley Ann Warren and Brandy respectively.
Playwright Douglas Carter Beane penned a fresh take on this classic story, and in 2013, “Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella" debuted on Broadway under the direction of Mark Brokaw.
Today, the magic of this production is alive and well and touring the country, presenting the classic “Cinderella" many know and love, with a few twists along the way. Fans of all ages should delight to the sights and sounds of this classic tale.
Perhaps no one is better suited to speak to the magic of Cinderella than Leslie Jackson, who plays the role of Marie (the Fairy Godmother).
“I really love being a part of this show and being able to spread such a positive message," says Jackson, “one that I think is very true to myself."
According to Jackson, those themes — expressing kindness for others, believing in oneself and exercising self-empowerment — are woven throughout the show in Beane's updated take on the fairytale classic.
Jackson would have to overcome some of her own self-doubts to take on the role of Marie, which is generally not cast to performers of Jackson's youthfulness.
“I was pretty surprised when they wanted to offer it to me," admits Jackson. “I was like, 'Are you sure?'"
Jackson also had reservations about portraying a character sometimes referred to as “Crazy Marie." But that's when tour director Gina Rattan stepped in to help Jackson tackle the part.
“She put it into perspective for me; Marie's not crazy crazy, she just isn't concerned with what other people think about her. She does her own thing and is content with herself."
It was at that point, Jackson says, she was able to let go and have fun with the role of “Crazy Marie."
Beane's updated Cinderella also infuses the story with a good dose of witticism and humor that, according to Jackson, makes the show “more modern and relatable" for today's audiences.
This modernity applies to the title character herself, at least to some extent. Beane's Cinderella isn't helplessly awaiting her rescue by a dashing prince. This Cinderella concerns herself with the plight of those around her as much as she does her own misfortunes. This Cinderella is out to shape a better world, not just ascend to its highest reaches.
Traditionalist, however, need not be alarmed as Beane's story is closely aligned with the 1957 television version of “Cinderella," and therefore leans closer to the French version of the story that most are accustomed to.
As Jackson is quick to point out, “all the classic, magic elements are still there."
In fact, many of those magical elements unfold on-stage, as opposed to behind the curtain, and it is for this creative costuming design — created by William Ivey Long — that “Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella" won a Tony Award in 2013. These jaw-dropping moments in the performance continue to catch audiences by surprise.
“It's always fun to hear the audience's reaction," says Jackson. “All the transformations — the pumpkin to the golden carriage, the mice into the horses, the fox and raccoon becoming the footmen and the driver and Cinderella's change from rags into this beautiful ball gown — happen right before your eyes, which is stunning."
“Cinderella" also features the songs many have come to love and expect from this show, but audiences can expect some new songs with this production, which boasts more than 25 songs over its two acts.
“You still have the classic songs that are normally associated with the show but then there are some songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein that many people haven't heard before because they were previously cut from other shows," says Jackson. “But they've worked them into this show."
One such song, not included in the original 1957 version of the show, “There's Music in You," was popularized in the 1997 version of the show as performed by Whitney Houston. It, along with others, including the ever-popular “Impossible" are sung by Jackson during the show.
But which part of the show is Jackson's favorite?
“Oh, I just love the ball! I wish I could be at the ball. It's just fascinating to watch. All my cast mates and the ensemble do such a beautiful job presenting it all. The costumes are beautiful!"
Witness all the magic of “Cinderella" on March 31 at the Weidner Center. Shows are at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets through TicketStarOnline.com.
A Royal Tea Party event is being offered at 12:30 p.m. for the royalty in your family. Tickets for this event are sold separately. More info at WeidnerCenter.com.
Coinciding with the celebration of its 25th season, the Weidner Center would like to hear from you. What's your Weidner Moment? Go to WeidnerCenter.com/MyWeidnerMoment/ or use #MyWeidnerMoment on social media to share your photo, story or memory and help the Weidner celebrate its silver anniversary.