Everyone is familiar with the beloved fairy tale “Cinderella.” There have been dozens of versions produced in the past−from the Disney animated version to musical adaptations for stage, screen, and television. This month, fans of fairy tales and musicals will have the opportunity to see Stage West Playhouse’s take on the classic story. With catchy songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, eye-popping costumes, imaginative choreography, and creative sets, it promises to be a fun evening for the young and the not-so-young alike.
This particular telling of Cinderella has a back story involving a character by the name of Jean-Michel, an idealist who wants to reform the kingdom and make it more democratic. He is also the love interest for one of the step-sisters, Gabrielle.
Another interesting character is “Crazy Marie,” a beggar woman. She has some clever lines that elicited laughter from the audience. “Crazy Marie” is not what she appears to be and has an alter-ego that is revealed partway through Act One.
The play is directed by Nichelle Mohre-Cassidy with choreography by Lori Kohan and Jacki Scott as musical director. The lead roles are performed by Jessica Haberland as Cinderella (“Ella”), Dylan Fidler as Prince Topher, and Melody Craven as the Fairy Godmother.
Nichelle Mohre-Cassidy acquired her love of theatre from her father, who exposed her and her sisters to musicals, such as “Phantom of the Opera.” The first play she directed was as a senior in high school. Over the years, Nichelle has directed a number of plays, including “Lend me a Tenor” and “Here Comes the Judge.”
“My favorites have been ‘Lend me a Tenor’ because it was a raucous comedy, and I really got to play with the actors’ movements. ‘Cinderella’ is another favorite because of the opportunity to showcase some new talent and bring together a whole team of creative innovators to make magic onstage,” Nichelle remarked.
She stated, however, that Cinderella was challenging because it’s a highly technical show with a large cast to manage.
“One of the most rewarding things about directing is the opportunity to problem-solve and collaborate with designers who have diverse ideas,” Nichelle added.
Jacki Scott is a veteran of theatre, having been involved with over sixty productions, in various capacities. Since moving to Florida in 1998, she has been a musical director in twenty-one shows, including “Guys and Dolls,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
“When I musically direct, I work closely with the choreographer. In this show [“Cinderella”], it’s Lori Kohan. We plan our rehearsals around learning both the singing and dancing at the same time instead of separately. It may seem a little unorthodox to some, but the overall outcome is better in the long run. The challenge has been for the cast to trust our process,” Jacki stated.
Despite her long career as a musical director, Jacki still has a few plays on her “bucket list.” These include “Hello Dolly,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Les Misréables.”
Lori Kohan has been involved with theatre for thirty-three years. Including “Cinderella,” she has choreographed such musicals as “The Music Man,” “Mama Mia,” and “Godspell.”
“For ‘Cinderella,’ it was challenging teaching Ballroom because it’s something most younger people have not experienced or been exposed to. But, since most of the cast members do not have any dance training, I feel elated when they are able to grasp the dances and look like they’ve been doing it for years.”
Despite her long experience in the theatre, there are still a number of musicals that Lori would like to choreograph.
“A few plays that I’ve been in but never choreographed are ‘Annie,’ ‘A Chorus Line,’ and ‘Sweet Charity.’ I love the music, dance, and story of these musicals. Putting motion to the music would be very gratifying.”
Jessica Haberland has been acting since she was five years old when she played a little teacup in “Beauty and the Beast.” Her favorite roles have been Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” Wendy in “Peter Pan” and now the title role in “Cinderella.”
She remarked, “It’s the best feeling in the world when a child comes up to you after a show thinking you’re their favorite Disney character come to life.”
Regarding her current role, Jessica commented, “I love that I get to try my hand at such beautiful well-known songs and that, as the title character, I get to work with nearly everyone on the stage at one point or another, and they are all SO talented.”
Dylan Fidler has been acting since high school when he was cast as Ernst Ludwig in a production of “Cabaret.” His favorite role was playing Audrey 2 in “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“It’s not often I get to stretch my voice acting muscles for a stage role, so getting to do a big booming voice AND singing with it was incredible,” remarked Dylan.
“I get half my enjoyment of acting from the audience’s enjoyment; the other half is the fulfillment of the hard work and passion that not only I but my cast mates put into the show,” he continued.
Melody Craven, who plays the Fairy Godmother, has had more than forty years of experience as a professional actor in movies, television, and stage, and it all started with her admiration for Carol Burnett.
“I saw the joy and laughter that she brought to myself and so many, and I knew that was something I would love to do too,” Melody remarked. She has acted in diverse productions, from serious drama, such as “Gaslight” to comedy, such as “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
Among Melody’s favorite roles was Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker” and the title role in “Auntie Mame.”
“Acting feeds my soul. I love that no matter what is going on in someone’s world, that while they are in the seat of that theatre, we have an opportunity to transport them away from the life outside,” she continued.
The part of the Fairy Godmother has been on Melody’s “bucket list” for as long as she remembers. “I love that she helps Cinderella see that she is worthy of having joy in her life, to love and to be loved,” said Melody.
Like all fairy tales or fables, there is a moral. “Cinderella” teaches us that being what you want to be or are destined to be is one of the most important things in life and that displaying kindness and love to others is equally important.
“Cinderella” will have six performances at Stage West. These will be March 17, 18, and 24 at 7:30 pm. There will also be matinee shows at 2:00 pm on March 19, 25 and 26. To purchase tickets for the show, go online to www.stagewestflorida.com or call the box office Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 2 pm. at 352-683-5113. The theatre is located at 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd. in Spring Hill.