Arts & Science Center to Present Modern Musical “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella”

Bethany Gere (left to right), Paige Boast and Makayla Shipe rehearse a scene from “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” July 6 at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. Performances are July 22-24 and July 29-31. (Courtesy of CSA)

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – A new version of a classic fairy tale hits the stage as the Arts and Science Center of Southeast Arkansas (ASC) presents its summer musical, ‘Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.’

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 22-23 and July 29-30; and at 2 p.m. on Sundays, July 24 and July 31 at the Catherine M. Bellamy Theater in the CSA Welcome Building, 701 S. Main St.

The production is sponsored by Simmons Bank.

The heroine of “Cinderella” is the beautiful and intelligent young Ella, played by Bryant’s Makayla Shipe. She lives under the care of her mean and self-centered stepmother Madame (Dana Edwards of White Hall) and Madame’s two daughters, Charlotte (Valerie Arnold of Little Rock) and Gabrielle (Celeste Alexander of Pine Bluff). Ella’s only friends are the animals in the woods, eccentric eccentric Marie (Bethany Gere of White Hall) and revolutionary student Jean-Michel (Kasey Rowland of Pine Bluff).

Meanwhile, in another part of the kingdom, Prince Topher (Caleb Menard of White Hall) tries to find himself and learn his place in the kingdom. When his scheming adviser Sebastian (J. Tyler Lewis of Little Rock) offers to throw a ball for the prince to meet potential brides, the worlds of Ella and Topher collide.

The rest of the cast includes Arin Bell, Keiren Minter, Raymond Wallace and Teanna Williams, all of Pine Bluff; Paige Boast, Wesley Brown, Harlie Hipp, Leah Randle and Lanie Ratliff, all of White Hall; Altheimer’s Portia Jones; Taylor Oates of Redfield; Will Witt of New Edinburgh; and Nick Farr of Little Rock.

Pine Bluff’s Lindsey Collins is directing, with Redfield’s Joel Anderson co-directing. “Cinderella” features musical direction by Faron Wilson and choreography by Tanya Simpson, both of Pine Bluff.

Written by Douglas Carter Beane, “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” made its Broadway debut in 2013. This Tony-winning production is adapted from the original television specials, which first aired in 1957.

Although the story is updated, the musical features the original songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

“I never realized how beautiful this music was until I started the editing process for this show,” said Collins, who is also responsible for ASC’s theater programs. “The lyrics are breathtaking and the way the music makes you feel exactly what the songwriters want you to feel is a true testament to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical abilities to stand the test of time.”

Collins continued: “Timeless classics, such as ‘Ten Minutes Ago’, ‘In My Own Little Corner’ and ‘Impossible’ are all present, but with fresh new orchestration, allowing new audiences to become as enthralled as those who grew up loving the original.Children and adults alike will be thrilled from the opening note of the opening until the closing notes rumble through the theater.

When the creative team behind “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” began the process of adapting it for the stage, they decided to focus on creating an expanded and fleshed out version that would also be acceptable to a 21st century audience. Collins explained.

“They wanted to focus on characters who would take charge of their own lives and their own destinies, and didn’t think modern audiences would be interested in passive characters whose princes would fall from the sky,” she said. “What was created is a Broadway show with modern sensibilities, but with plenty of traditional theatrical magic.”

Tickets are $20 for CSA members and seniors and $25 for non-members. To buy, visit asc701.org, call 870-536-3375 or visit ASC’s front desk. For more information, contact Collins at [email protected] or 870-536-3375.