It’s hard to believe it took 56 years for the Rodgers and Hammerstein television musical about Cinderella to make it to Broadway in 2013 as “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” It has a new book by Douglas Carter Beane. It has new songs, including “Now is The Time,” a tune cut from “South Pacific.” And it has a touring show landing in Charlotte for the first time at Belk Theatre Tuesday.
A review of scholarly articles shows the first known Cinderella story came from China: “Yeh-Shen” was written in the ninth century. The story we are familiar with is loosely based on one written in the 1690s by Frenchman Charles Perrault, who published it and seven other stories as “The Tales of Mother Goose.” Kids might also be familiar with modern rewrites, from Susan Lowell’s western version “Cindy Ellen” to Tony Johnston’s mythic “Big Foot Cinderrrrella.”
It’s the classic journey of rags to riches, ugly to beautiful, weak to strong – a saga with endless permutations. And as an added bonus – spoiler alert! – someone gets to marry a prince!
Paige Faure, 28 is touring as the lead, after playing the role on Broadway this summer. Her previous Broadway tours include “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Aida.” “It’s a strong woman’s role, and she takes this real journey,” she says. “Every night I go from being this meek girl to a woman who gets to gain control of her destiny. It is a dream job.”
Though Faure says she has echoes in her head of both the Julie Andrews and Leslie Ann Warren portrayals of Cinderella, she’s made this character her own: “It is a little more modern, there are contemporary influences, and it feels more like a romantic comedy.”
There are several whimsical subplots: a stepsister romance and a prince who, “despite the fact that he doesn’t know how to lead the kingdom, is really good at fighting giants and dragons,” Faure says.
Faure says she admires the way the script gives Cinderella the opportunity to be a leader. “She teaches him how he can stand up to the way the kingdom has been run, how he can help the poor, and she brings about the idea of democracy.”
In addition to a more political and savvy Cinderella, this production has an elaborate set infused with forest magic. Rock Hill native William Ivey Long won a Tony for his costume designs, which are inspired by the natural environment, the Flemish painter Breughel and Catherine de Medici’s French court.
Anna Louizos’ set is ensconced in the forest, with shimmery trees and crawling vines. Onstage mice are changed into horses, a pumpkin turns into a carriage, and a peasant becomes a princess. “There are a couple of transformations you can watch a million times and not see how it could be done,” Faure says.
The most challenging song for Faure is “In My Own Little Corner,” an emotional number Cinderella sings after being insulted by her stepmother. “It’s hard to put myself at the lowest part of the totem pole at the beginning of each show,” Faure says. “But the payoff is great, to watch this woman go from such a low place to the highest place in the kingdom.”