Deborah Gibson and Paolo Montalban will dance at a grand ball beginning Nov. 28, when the new North American tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, a fresh stage version of the small-screen classic, begins in Tampa, FL.
Gabriel Barre directs the newly-constructed stage version, drawing on elements of past TV and stage versions. Nightclub siren and Broadway star Eartha Kitt will be the Fairy Godmother and Mystery of Irma Vep star Everett Quinton will crossdress as the evil Stepmother in the new show, produced by NETworks Presentations LLC.
Gibson (playing Cinderella) is the former teen pop star who has ventured into professional musical theatre (she did a brief tour of Funny Girl a few years back) and Montalban (as the Prince) repeats the role he played in the hit Disney TV version of the R&H musical that gave the world "Ten Minutes Ago," "Impossible" and "In My Own Little Corner."
Performances begin Nov. 29 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Tour dates through August 2001 — including a May 2001 stop at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan — have been announced (see below). Gibson is expected to appear in the first three months of the national tour.
* The famed TV musical — there have been three small-screen versions — is being adapted for the stage by Tom Briggs, and directed by Barre, who helmed Off-Broadway's The Wild Party. In the current issue of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization's newsletter, "Happy Talk," Briggs revealed that two Rodgers songs from other sources will be interpolated (as they were in the 1997 telepic): "The Sweetest Sounds" (with music and lyrics by Rodgers, from No Strings) and "There's Music in You" (by Rodgers and Hammerstein, from an obscure motion picture called "Main Street to Broadway").
The book for the new stage show draws on the original teleplay by Oscar Hammerstein II but the cast concept is inspired by the multicultural cast of the 1997 "Wonderful World of Disney" version, which starred pop singers Brandy and Whitney Houston.
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.
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 effects). 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 (Queen), Joanne Borts, Victor Trent Cook (Lionel), Natalie Cortez, Kip Driver, Kevin Duda, Alexandra Kolb (Stepsister Joy), Jason Ma, Monica Patton, Lyn Philistine, Ken Prymus (King), Everett Quinton (Wicked Stepmother), Christeena Riggs, Jason Robinson, Jessica Rush, Todd Underwood, Andre Ward, Patrick Wetzel and Natasha Williams (Stepsister Grace).
The 1997 TV movie had a multicultural cast — an African American Queen, a white King, a Filipino Prince — and a script and score (with several new interpolations, including "Falling in Love With Love") that were 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 "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).
The standout songs of the now-classic score will 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 ("The Loneliness of Evening," cut from South Pacific) and subsequent stage versions for stock and amateur stagings have added "Boys and Girls Like You and Me," cut from Oklahoma!
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.
Quinton, a longtime collaborator with the late Charles Ludlam, won Obie and Drama Desk Awards for his revival of The Mystery of Irma Vep in 1999.
Cinderella will play the following dates:
Nov. 28-Dec. 3 Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, FL
Dec. 5-10 Jackie Gleason Theatre, Miami, FL
Dec. 12-17 Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, CT
Dec. 19-24 Morris Mechanic Theatre, Baltimore, MD
Dec.26-31 Devos Hall, Grand Rapids, MI
Jan. 9-14 Clowes Hall, Indianapolis, IN
Jan. 16-28 Ford Center-Oriental Theatre, Chicago, IL
Jan. 30-Feb. 11 Panatges Theatre, Toronto, Ontario
Feb. 13-18 Venue TBA, Minneapolis, MN
Feb 20-March 4 Aronoff Center, Cincinnati, OH
March 6-12 Kentucky Center for the Arts, Louisville, KY
March 13-18 Bob Carr Theatre, Orlando, FL
March 20-25 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA
March 27-April 1 Saenger Theatre, New Orleans, LA
April 3-8 Marcus Performing Arts Center, Milwaukee, WI
April 10-15 Palace Theatre, Columbus, OH
April 17-29 Broward Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
May 1-13 Theatre at Madison Square Garden, New York City
May 15-20 Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh, PA
May 29-June 3 Civic Auditorium, San Diego, CA
June 5-10 Orange County PAC, Costa Mesa, CA
June 12-17 Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA
June 19-24 Civic Auditorium, Portland, OR
June 26-July 1 Gammage Auditorium, Tempe, AZ
July 10-22 Music Hall, Dallas, TX
July 24-29 Jones Hall, Houston, TX
July 31-Aug. 12 Buell Auditorium, Denver, CO
Aug. 14-19 Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, KS
Aug. 21-26 Wang Center, Boston, MA
— By Kenneth Jones