Cinderella dons her slipper at The Stadium Theatre
WOONSOCKET – The story of Cinderella has created theatrical magic ever since Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their stage adaptation of the folk tale in 1957. It was their only musical written specifically for television and for Julie Andrews in the title role.
Their work has been remade twice for television, with Lesley Ann Warren starring in the 1965 version and American singer, songwriter and record producer Brandy taking the role in 1997.
The young heroine finally made her Broadway debut in 2013 in “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” and now the Stadium Theatre works with that Tony Award-winning adaptation for its own production, opening Nov. 18.
Director Ranee Csigay says this is a contemporary retelling of the story, with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane. Music from the original score is featured, along with several additional Rodgers and Hammerstein songs.
In Beane’s version, Prince Topher has just completed university studies and has returned to his kingdom to take over from his late father. In the Prince’s absence, the heartless prime minister, Sebastian, has been running things and treating people badly.
“Cinderella goes to the castle not to find her prince but to talk with him, to tell him what’s happening,” says Julia Anthon, who plays the heroine, now called Ella.
A number of new characters also contribute to the updated saga, Csigay notes, and although Ella and the Prince ultimately fall in love, their relationship is more of a partnership than the rescue of a damsel in distress.
Csigay, an adjunct professor of theater at Rhode Island College, says even when directing other versions, she’s worked “more dimension” to Cinderella’s personality, and especially in this script, “She has a mind of her own.”
“But this still is a fairy tale, and we keep that quality,” she promises. “There is magic in the transformation scenes. She (Ella) gets her carriage, her dress.”
Meanwhile, Anthon has a lot to say about the “new” Ella, and about making her own debut at the Stadium.
Home schooled until college, Anthon says theater always has been part of her life. Her mother had been a theater major in college and was a kinder-music teacher.
“I grew up with the Lesley Ann Warren version, and we’d do sing-alongs to it,” Anthon says. She also took theater classes at Good Company Tutorials in Attleboro, a program that supports homeschooling families with academic and enrichment classes.
She says she never expected to get the title role, and in fact, Csigay wasn’t considering her for the role – until she saw and heard Anthon’s audition.
“She just has such an instinct,” Csigay says.