It's possible! The national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella begins a new leg Dec. 7-8 in Charleston, SC, starring Eartha Kitt as the Fairy Godmother.
Pop star and actress Deborah Gibson began the family-friendly tour in November 2000, but now, in a real Cinderella story, a year later, her understudy Jessica Rush slips into the glass slipper. She'll sing the classic Richard Rodgers melodies opposite Paolo Montalban, who starred in the famed 1997 TV movie version of the musical and danced with Gibson in the past year on tour. Nicole Leach was previously announced for the role.
The Gabriel Barre-directed tour plays dates into March 2002, the centennial year of Rodgers' birth. Performances play the South Carolina Performing Arts Center in Charleston, Dec. 7-8 before moving on to the Hershey Theatre in Pennsylvania.
Kitt is the nightclub siren and Tony Award nominated Broadway star of Timbuktu and The Wild Party. She signed onto Cinderella in 2000 when previously-announced Diahann Carroll pulled out. Everett Quinton, playing the Stepmother, is a New York favorite from The Mystery of Irma Vep.
This touring stage version of the popular TV musical is produced by NETworks Presentations LLC. Upcoming cities include Washington, DC, Boston, Philadelphia, Birmingham, AL, Omaha, Jacksonville, FL, Hartford, CT, Detroit, St, Louis and San Antonio. *
Director Barre directs the newly-constructed stage version, drawing on elements of past TV and stage versions. Montalban 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."
The musical — there have been three small-screen versions — was adapted for the stage this time by Tom Briggs. Barre helmed Off Broadway's The Wild Party. In a recent issue of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization's newsletter, "Happy Talk," Briggs revealed that two Rodgers songs from other sources have been 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 company of the 1997 "Wonderful World of Disney" version, which starred pop singers Brandy and Whitney Houston.
Ken Roberson choreographs the touring production. 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 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.
— By Kenneth Jones