"It's Possible": Tony Award-Winning Producer Robyn Goodman Transforms Cinderella for Broadway
By Adam Hetrick
Producer Robyn Goodman has made a career out of introducing Broadway audiences to new voices in theatre, including her Tony Award-winning productions of In the Heights and Avenue Q. Her quest this season was to find a fresh voice within the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella, which at long last arrives on Broadway 50 years after it was first written.
Playbill.com spoke with Goodman the day following Cinderella's Tony nomination for Best Revival of a Musical:
You've been developing this new production over the past several years. It's astounding to think that Cinderella has never played Broadway until now.
Robyn Goodman: When Ted Chapin, the president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization said to me, "Would you like to do something with Cinderella?" I said, "Oh my God, my childhood! Lesley Ann Warren!" It was a gift. But I said, "I can't tell that story. I have to tell a story that gives Cinderella some empowerment where she can help the prince and he can help her, so that modern audiences won't shoot me in the back when they leave, especially women."
You've surrounded yourself with a really strong creative team who have been creating and refining this new version to deliver something new. How difficult is the process of aligning the right people?
RG: Finding the writer was the hard part. Somebody who not only wanted to do it, but had a great idea. Until I had Douglas Carter Beane and director Mark Brokaw, I didn't know that I could make the show that I wanted. It's been a joy. They told exactly the kind of story in the elegant way that I saw musicals as a child.
Unlike a new musical, you know right from the start that you have a great Rodgers and Hammerstein score that's been audience-tested for years. This also presents a challenge, because you have to present something new. The musical team has created some lush new arrangements. Was there a sense of discovery when you heard the arrangements and orchestrations for the first time?
RG: It was wonderful. When we had the sitzprobe and first heard the orchestrations, we were all in tears. We felt like we were creating a brand-new Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – all of us – the actors, the musicians, the people on the team, we all cried. We were so excited and moved by it. David Chase, our musical supervisor, and Andy Einhorn have done a spectacular job. You feel like you know the music, but it's fresh. And Danny Troob, he's Tony-nominated for Best Orchestrations–oh my God, those orchestrations! The album is gorgeous, too.
As a producer whose career has largely been dedicated to developing the work of new writers, what guides you through the process from idea to the stage?
RG: It's interesting. I've been in the business about 35 years. I ran a theatre, and I've been around a lot of work. When I lose my gut [instinct], I'm going to leave. I feel that, even as a dramaturgical producer, that you can talk about structure all you want and dramatic arcs, and this and that, but it's your gut. One of the things we kept saying while we were developing Cinderella was, "Let's remember, that this is about those two kids and let's make sure that this story takes them forward every moment." So, for me, the creative part of being a producer, that's the part I love the best. It's about taste, about gut, about understanding how musicals work and about learning from your collaborators.
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