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Scrambling 'Cinderella'

Director weaves modern twists into ancient tale

Director weaves modern twists into ancient tale

February 27, 2003|by KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

It's a hard-knock life Kirsten Rossi leads.

The Newtown, Pa., native is traveling the countryside doing what she loves. She gets to dress up in flashy clothes and mingle with royalty.

And every night, the 25-year-old gets to fall in love all over again.

With a prince, natch.

"Who wouldn't want to be Cinderella," Rossi says from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "It kind of makes you feel like a princess every day."

Whisking into town with a gust of whimsy and fairy dust, the NETworks Tours production of "Cinderella" will turn The Maryland Theatre into a place where dreams come true during two shows Sunday, March 2.

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But this is not your fairy godmother's version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Director Gabriel Barre has scrambled the fairy tale to weave details from its varied incarnations, drawing from a ninth-century China version to Walt Disney's 1950 animated film.

Not part of the original Rodgers and Hammerstein production, two songs from the composers' repertoire, "The Sweetest Sounds" and "There's Music in You," have been added to bookend the musical. A racially diverse cast and modern language also help make this "Cinderella" an updated tale with universal appeal.

"'Cinderella' is one of the oldest fairy tales and most known fairy tales ever. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to tell the story again, and I loved the idea of looking at all versions of the story, which may or may not be well-known by Americans, and pulling the best elements of them all," Barre says from his New York City home. "With something that is so well known, I would think that is important. You have to challenge yourself about how can you surprise the audience, do something they don't expect."

In his first tour experience, 23-year-old Adam Jacobs portrays Cinderella's Prince Charming. When he saw an earlier cast stage the musical, he thought it was a show he could be a part of.

Surprised by its humor, pleased by its current tone and language, he says small touches make the story more contemporary, particularly in his interaction with his character's parents, Queen Constantina and King Maximillian.

"When you look at us on stage, we're just like the typical family," Jacobs says. "He's not just a prince, he's a young guy who wants to get out and explore the world."

Other changes are cosmetic - Rossi's Cinderella is a brunette - or structural. Mirroring the Disney film, for instance, Barre introduced a group of animal companions for Cinderella, puppets that serve as the character's confidantes.

And there is less of a sense of entitlement to Cinderella's big night out. Her fairy godmother still swoops in to lavish fancy clothes and a glitzy ride at her feet, but Cinderella must earn her reward.

Cinderella's journey, Rossi says, makes the role much more valuable and challenging.

"You're not always going to have a fairy there that says one-two-three, you have a car, or money," she says. "You have to work for it."

"Cinderella is really resourceful and has to work for this. It's not something she's handed, it's something she earns," Barre agrees. "We've tried to make it about a young woman, in this case a girl, coming to terms with her self-worth, and I think everyone needs to be reminded of that, no matter the culture."

Still, at its root, "Cinderella" is one whopper of a love story, a tale as old as time that Jacobs and Rossi say never fails to captivate audiences of all ages.

Rossi says the musical taps into the imagination of young and old alike, opening a dream world of possibility where a prince or princess is waiting to make life an unending fairy tale.

"Everybody loves a love story, and the fact it can happen to anybody, no matter how rich or poor you are," Jacobs says. "No matter where you are, what class or whatever, there's always someone who could come along and make your life amazingly better."

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