SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The Broadway version of “Cinderella” arrives at the historic By The Sea Theater this week as a holiday treat for adults and children who can see this fairy tale reincarnated.
The “timeless” Bill Hanney, as the producer and owner of Theater By The Sea likes to call himself, brought Matunuck this timeless musical with a cast that, according to rehearsals, adds a flavor of diversity and exuberance which raises a notch what could have been the same choreography of other interpretations.
“This cast is diverse, and in this play we want to touch on the reality of life that everyone has lived in one way or another,” said director Kenny Ingram, who is making his TBTS debut and will choreograph with the help of Briana Reed.
Long before Ingram, French author Charles Perrault made “Cinderella” popular in 1697 by publishing this popular tale in his “Tales of Mother Goose” collection.
Infused into storytelling traditions over the centuries in many cultures, it has gone through its own evolution in form and substance, though the core themes of kindness juxtaposed with cruelty have remained central.
Ingram preserves these and other moral landmarks with a particular emphasis that he hopes will resonate with audiences today in a highly polarized America.
“What I would like to communicate to the public through this piece is that we have to be nice to each other. That’s the theme and that’s what I told the cast over and over again during rehearsals,” he said.
In his view, fairy tales often show that kindness is rewarded in the end and selfishness is punished or rewards are denied. A scenario that audiences expect to see in upbeat musicals like this. Ingram does not disappoint them.
In all the classic versions of “Cinderella”, she remains kind despite the cruel actions of those close to her. A fairy godmother helps her because Cinderella is kind. A prince falls in love with Cinderella and saves her from cruelty because she is kind.
Others less kind are punished or deprived of what they want because of their self-interest and the love affair of marrying a prince symbolizes the revival of kindness, mentioned by Ingram, which is often forgotten, that either in this century or in past centuries.
Ingram brings plenty of Broadway stops along the way, and those credits include several roles in the ever-popular “Lion King.” He has been doing theater for over 30 years, starting at 16 and performing in different parts of the country.
As Ingram sat at TBTS’s Woodruff Avenue rehearsal studio in South Kingstown last week, explaining the importance he places on this Broadway version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic production, he happily shouted at several times “Bonjour, bonjour” to the actors entering.
He wants kindness to be part of this show – on and off the stage. It’s not just something to show when the show lights are on, he said.
Life and death, good and evil, hope and fear, fate and free will, are also the dominant notions that adults and children will see in this version.
Cinderella is played by 21-year-old Ophelia Rivera, who recently completed a tour with the cast for the “25th Anniversary Farewell Tour of Rent.”
“I think right off the bat it’s complex and fleshed out for people to see. She is abused, but wants to be kind to others who should know and live better,” she said.
In a moment of candor, the young performer added, “First you technically get to know your role. But, you live the moment on stage and that character becomes a version of yourself.
“It’s such a special story. It’s something that means something to everyone – humanity, love, beauty,” she said.
Looking at the rehearsals, the show’s billing by TBTS seemed on point.
He said the production will have “all the memorable moments, including the pumpkin patch, the glass slipper, the masquerade ball and more — plus some surprising new twists.”
Songs including “In My Own Little Corner”, “Impossible/It’s Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago” are included in this production to appeal to audiences of all ages. The same goes for characters whose ethnicity includes African Americans, Caucasians, and others.
The cast preparing for Friday’s opening night last week certainly held promise for putting on a show that would appeal to a wide range of viewers. Whether season ticket holders or vacationers, anyone looking for an evening or morning of musical entertainment every few weeks at TBTS may find this latest production does the trick and more.
Hanney said: “While a lot of people naturally assume this is a show for kids, this new adaptation, which recently played on Broadway, really has something for everyone…I think our audiences will find this updated version of the classic to be quite crowd pleaser.
“Cinderella” held its first of two preview performances last night. The second is scheduled for tonight with the official production opening party taking place on Friday. From then on, the show will play until August 13.
Performances are scheduled Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., Thursdays at 2 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m., with special performance times on Sunday, July 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and a performance morning special on Wednesday. August 10 at 2 p.m.
The theater is located at 364 Cards Pond Road, Matunuck. For ticket prices and purchases, visit theatrebythesea.com or call (401) 782-8587.