The story of Cinderella is not a new one, however, for most, experiencing it in the form of a French opera probably is. This unique experience is exactly what students and staff have worked hard to offer with their production of Cendrillon, opening Saturday night.
Cendrillon pulls the magic of the classic fairytale onto the Griffin Hall stage and then gives it a little twist. Starting with the set, which features plenty of glitter and your quintessential storybook oak tree disguised as three different sets. The sets live on a turn table that allows for quick and magical scene changes.
All of this is framed in an intricate lattice of shadows and wooden cut outs in the shape of branches, leaves and vines that call up images of the borders of a well-loved children’s book. In fact, that is exactly where the inspiration came from.
“I pulled out a bunch of illustrated children’s books, and I had this great little pop-up book that was a carousel book, so you open it up and tie the two ends together, and that became the basic concept for this set,” said set designer Zhanna Gurvich.
Turning this concept into a reality was easier said than done. Unlike shows done in the UCA’s other spaces, where the set can be built directly on stage, Griffin Hall required the set for Cendrillon to be built mostly in an outside location.
Master Carpenter Taylor Webster described the process as creating a lego-kit that allowed them to fit a lot of set through a little door.
Complimenting the storybook set is the otherworldly lighting, which was largely inspired by the more modern fairytale Tangled.
“The whole point of a fairytale is to make it very magical and feel like it’s not in the same world that we live in,” said lighting designer Andrew McIntyre. “We have lots of really cool effects that come in and out across the entire show, and I think it just adds a lot of magic and really, I think, brings the audience into their world.”
One of the most important elements of Cendrillon’s world is music. The music is one of the biggest challenges of the show, being that it is in French, as well as the very heart and soul of the show.
Lindsay Espinosa, who plays the Fairy Godmother in one of the show’s two casts, explains how she used music to understand her character.
“The music really says a lot about what the character is, who she is, what she does, what she thinks,” Espinosa said. “For example, I’m never really singing on a strong beat, which means I’m kind of off-beat and playful and unpredictable and, therefore, magical and mysterious.”
Emily Morris, who plays Cinderella, also feels as if the music lends a sense of depth to her character.
“I love being able to present Cinderella as a real person instead of just this one dimensional character,” Morris said.
The costumes are nearly as complex as the characters themselves. Again, fairytales, were the general inspiration, but many of the costumes span many decades and influences.
“ I basically took all of my favorite moments of each time period,” said costume designer Janelle Sutton. “So, the dad has a Victorian mixed with gothic tudor feel. The stepmom has a 40s feel to her, she has Bettie Page bangs and Lucille Ball curls on top of her head. For the Prince, I basically just ripped off what Prince William wore for his wedding, and then for the oak tree scene he has more of a tudor feel. So, I tried to blend a lot of periods all into one. I call it Janelle’s time period.”
It all comes together to create a version of Cinderella that really has it all, which is what director Tiffany Blake believes is one of the best things about the show.
“It appeals on lots of levels,” Blake said, “There’s poignant romance, it’s very G-rated romance, but the stepsisters and the mother also create a lot of comic relief moments. So, I think it has a lot for lots of different audiences.”
After six months of preparation, the cast and crew is finally ready to share Cendrillon with the public, and are confident that audiences will appreciate the magic of the show.
“No one will walk away from the show and think, ‘I was so underwhelmed,’” said stage manager Kailey Buttrick. “That’s the only thing people won’t say for sure.”
Collegian Entertainment Reporter Katie Salka can be reached at email@example.com.