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Sight gags and slapstick energize the Civic’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Perhaps appropriately for a story that revolves around a glass slipper, director/choreographer Doug King steps lightly when talking about Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s take on Cinderella. “It’s some of their best music, but it’s not one of their best scripts,” he laughs. “The dialogue can be a little… ‘dippy’ if you’re not a very young girl who is totally infatuated with the Cinderella story.”
In fact, even a very young girl might role her eyes at a few of the lines between Cinderella and her prince. Though Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is different from the Disney version we all know, its still a pretty earnest take on a fairy tale. With the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s production (opening May 10), King wanted to add a little something to leaven the heavy sweetness.
So, King added a lot of comic elements to the play — sight gags, a little slapstick, costuming and casting and line reading choices. In one scene, the young maidens of the kingdom break into a free-for-all in their efforts to get the attention of the prince. In another, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother becomes frustrated with her dancing partner, and takes the lead. “My goal is to have things fun and energetic and enjoyable for all the dads, brothers, and mothers in the audience,” King says.
He did this without changing any of the lines, or really even changing the tone of the beloved story — dreams come true and love conquers all in the end. In other words, this in not a subversive or cynical take on a classic fairy tale (and who really wants to see another one of those?).
And besides, as we said above, King loves the music, a sentiment he shares with… well, millions of people across multiple generations. Rodgers & Hammerstein originally wrote their take on Cinderella for television in 1957, with Julie Andrews in the title role. Lesley Ann Warren filled the glass slipper for a 1965 remake, and Brandy took the title role for yet another version in 1997. In between, it was adapted into a stage play and enjoyed several Broadway revivals.
I don’t know if there’s a show business maxim that says you should never underestimate the comedic mileage you can get out of putting a man in a dress, but there probably should be. Among the large ensemble of vocal and comedic talent on the Civic’s stage — which includes Elizabeth Piercy as Cinderella, Annie Robinson as the fairy godmother, and Kontrell Tyler as Prince Charming — is Reuben Albaugh, who plays the Wicked Stepmother.
“Actually, I did sort of audition with that part in mind,” says Albaugh, who recently played Boris Kolenkhov in You Can’t Take It With You at First Presbyterian. “I know there have been shows that have done that in the past, and having worked with Doug before, I knew whatever part I got, it would be fun.”
King adds that Albaugh’s singing voice is a high tenor, and that he thought Albaugh would be good for some of the more physical humor he had in mind for the production. As far as the character of the wicked stepmother, Albaugh says he’s not really basing her on anyone in particular. “But her voice is sort of Dame Edna-esque, for no other reason than that was what just started happening,” laughs Albaugh. “This affectation, this lilt, just sort of came about naturally.”
“I’m having a blast with it,” Albaugh adds. “And there are so many people in the show I’ve never worked with before that it’s been a lot of fun to work with new people, new energy.”
The Fort Wayne Civic Theatre presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Friday, May 10 — 8:00 PM
Saturday, May 11 — 2:00 PM — matinee
Saturday, May 11 — 8:00 PM
Sunday, May 12 — 2:00 PM — matinee
Thursday, May 16 — 7:30 PM
Friday, May 17 — 8:00 PM
Saturday, May 18 — 2:00 PM — matinee
Saturday, May 18 — 8:00 PM
Sunday, May 19 — 2:00 PM — matinee
For tickets and pricing, call (260) 424-5220 or go to fwcivic.org