Former teen pop princess Deborah Gibson will be a Cinderella transformed by Eartha Kitt's Fairy Godmother in the new NETworks national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, beginning Nov. 28 in Tampa, FL.
The famed TV musical is being adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs, and directed by Gabriel Barre, who helmed Off Broadway's The Wild Party. Kitt and Barre had been previously announced, but the casting of pop star Gibson was officially announced Oct. 13. She is expected to appear in the first three months of the national tour, which SFX was originally producing with NETworks Presentations, LLC. The latter now has sole producer credit.
Casting for The Prince in the classic musical is expected to be announced within a week. Tour dates will be announced shortly.
Eartha Kitt, known for playing the musical vamp through her stage and concert career, will be the leggy Fairy Godmother. The recent Tony Award nominee for Broadway's The Wild Party stepped into Cinderella when previously announced Diahann Carroll pulled out. The tour will play at least through summer 2001 and begins Nov. 28 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
Ken Roberson will choreograph. He was assistant choreographer on Jelly's Last Jam. Designers are James Youmans (set), Pamela Scofield (costumes) and Tim Hunter (lighting), Duncan Edwards (sound), Bernie Ardia (hair) and Greg Meeh (special EFX). Musical arrangements and supervision are by Barre collaborator Andrew Lippa, who wrote the score of The Wild Party for Manhattan Theatre Club and jon and jen, Off-Broadway. The cast for the new Cinderella includes Leslie Becker, Joanne Borts, Victor Trent Cook, Natalie Cortez, Kip Driver, Kevin Duda, Alexandra Kolb, Jason Ma, Monica Patton, Lyn Philistine, Ken Prymus, Everett Quinton, Christeena Riggs, Jason Robinson, Jessica Rush, Todd Underwood, Andre Ward, Patrick Wetzel and Natasha Williams.
The exact nature of the Cinderella script and score is still not clear, but the core of the piece has Oscar Hammerstein II's conception and lyrics from various TV and stock productions, and music by Richard Rodgers.
What remains unclear is how much the tour will borrow content or casting ideas from the hit 1997 TV movie, which had a multicultural cast — an African American Queen, a white King, a Filipino Prince — and a script and score (with several new interpolations) somewhat different from the classic 1957 and 1965 TV productions of the tuner. "Cinderella" was the only show R&H wrote for the small screen.
The 1997 "Wonderful World of Disney" broadcast is also different from the Hammerstein script that is licensed to stock and amateur groups several hundred times a year (itself using different interpolations).
A spokesman for The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization previously told Playbill On-Line that a new script is being developed based on the Hammerstein original and drawing from various productions over the years. The standout songs of the now-classic score will likely be intact. Several generations of musical fans grew up with such tunes as "Ten Minutes Ago," "Impossible," "The Stepsisters' Lament" and "In My Own Little Corner."
There have been changes over the years to each version of the R&H "Cinderella" project: The 1965 version included an interpolated song ("Boys and Girls Like You and Me," cut from Oklahoma!), the 1993 New York City Opera staging added another tune ("The Loneliness of Evening," cut from South Pacific) and the licensed stage script has borrowed other R&H songs.
The flashier 1997 version starred Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother and Brandy in the title role (a part previous played by Julie Andrews in 1957 and Lesley Ann Warren in 1965). A new teleplay and interpolations of "The Sweetest Sounds" (with music and lyrics by Rodgers, from No Strings), "Falling in Love With Love" (with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, from The Boys From Syracuse), "There's Music in You" (from the film, "Main Street to Broadway") and "Your Majesties/The Prince is Giving a Ball" (with new lyrics by Fred Ebb) were included in the new movie, which was seen by 60 million people.
Deborah Gibson made her singing and acting debut at age five in community theatre and by the age of 16 she was a hit pop singer-songwriter with the album, "Out of the Blue." Songs "Foolish Beat" and "Lost in Your Eyes" followed, and she appeared on the Broadway stage as Eponine in Les Miserables and Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She played Rizzo is Grease on a U.S. tour and in London and toured briefly in a revival of Funny Girl.
— By Kenneth Jones