New take on Cinderella enchants campus

sarah.hawkins

The sounds of ballroom music and stage directions fill the auditorium of the Forest Roberts Theatre. Students and area residents dance on stage while sneaking peeks at a prince and his mysterious, yet beautiful dance partner. The two look longingly into each other’s eyes as they walk hand in hand up the stairs in the center of the stage, while the dancing continues below them.

Although this may seem like any ordinary fairy tale, it’s actually an entirely different world, one where nothing is what it seems.

The latest from Forest Roberts Theatre is none other than Cinderella. Theater professor Shelley Russell, who is also the director of the production, hopes to challenge any preconceived notions audiences may have of this timeless classic. And though she’s kept the music and characters the same as the ones found in Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, she’s made some drastic changes with the costumes and sets. The new theme of Cinderella is excess.

“In all periods we can have a very impractical and foolish attitude about what we put on our bodies,” Russell said.

She incorporated this idea into the costumes by making most of them very over the top, yet incomplete. She said some outfits may have large extravagant hats, but are missing a sleeve or part of a blouse.

And to make sure the quality matched the extravagance, professional designer Melissa Owens was brought in to design the costumes. Owens has designs that have been used in the Weathervane Playhouse in Ohio and the Barter Theatre in Virginia.

Russell and Owens worked closely together on the designs, although it was hard working via e-mail and phone. Russell said she received the designs and then had to try to adapt them to the stage, so the job facing Owens when she arrived was huge. She had to put 12 to 14 hours of work in a day, and the first dress rehearsal was an especially long day for her.

“When we finished rehearsal last night it was going on midnight,” Russell said. “We were all pretty tired, and then the stage manager mentioned that Melissa had been in the costume shop since 9:30 [that morning]. She’s amazing.”

And all that hard work is paying off. The cast and crew seem to be very impressed with how the costumes are turning out. Treasure Lee King, who plays the Fairy Godmother, said the designer is very gifted and loves her outfit.

“Mine’s not incomplete or excessive, it’s just simple and elegant,” King said.

But not every character has an outlandish appearance. The prince and Cinderella are some of the only characters who have calm, complete outfits, and Russell uses this to symbolize their need to find each other amongst all the extravagance.

Following the costume design, Russell said the sets also have touches of excesses.

“The step sisters’ house is hideous,” she said. With gaudy knick-knacks cluttering the house, she said the only beautiful thing there is the chair Cinderella sits in.

Senior elementary education major Randi Chandler, who plays Cinderella, said the people responsible for the props and set deserve a lot of credit.

“It raises the quality of the show to have such great props,” Chandler says.

Senior theater major Jennifer Henry, who is also the production stage manager, said the pyrotechnics is what really gives the show flare. She’s worked with pyrotechnics on three other shows, and said they can be unpredictable, but the effect is well worth it.

“They’re what create the magic,” she said.

And that magic is the reason King loves her Fairy Godmother scene so much. With all the sparks and flashes going on around her, the fifty-one-year-old feels years younger while performing.

“[It] makes me feel like a little kid again,” she said.

For the actors, as well as those working behind the scenes, there are many parts of the play that stand out to them. And according to King, it’s the direction of Russell that’s really bringing the production together.

“I like the way our director has added a natural touch to such a beautiful fairy tale,” King said. “She’s contemporized it without changing it.”

Performances are at Forest Roberts Theatre at 7:30 on Feb. 17-21, with a 1 p.m. matinee on Feb. 21. Tickets cost $9 for students and $14 for general admission.