During the July 26 musical for “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” at Los Altos Hills’ Foothill Music Theatre, talent from all over the greater Bay Area and students from Foothill College performed a modernized story of Cinderella. The show began with the harmonious voices of cast members in a melodic Prologue and ended with a royal wedding in the Royal Gardens. In between were magical stunts, vibrant choreography, colorful costumes and of course, a love story.
Douglas Carter Beane, the playwright who wrote this version of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” gave the story a contemporary edge that would appeal to 21st century audiences.
“It’s the same Cinderella fairy tale that we all know and love,” said Milissa Carey, Show Director. “There’s some political activism that happens in the story. We have a young woman named Ella who, throughout the course of the play, learns that the way to move ahead in life is from within. She transforms herself and the people around her and the world. She’s not a victim in this story. She’s in charge of her own world.
“Her fairy godmother Marie (Angela Cesena), who starts out as a homeless woman, is transformed by Ella,” continued Carey. “The fairy godmother sings a beautiful song called ‘There’s Music in You,’ which is a metaphor for how happiness comes from within.”
In this adaptation of “Cinderella,” Ella sought out Prince Topher at the ball to advocate for marginalized citizens in their kingdom. When Prince Topher expressed interest in Ella, she decided when she was ready to take the next step in their relationship.
“So the first time Ella takes back her shoe, it’s because she doesn’t want to be found yet,” said Christina Lea, who plays Ella. “She ends up leaving her shoe behind later when she’s ready to be found. That’s when her journey as a person has completed. What’s amazing about her is that in the show, she gains the authority and confidence to determine her own fate and better herself and her kingdom.”
Internal and external transformation also marked a few other characters. Ella’s stepsister Gabrielle (Melissa Gialdini) deviated from the trope of the snooty stepsister by going against the wishes of Madame (Jasmine Johnson), her social climber mother. Gialdini conveyed a character who was initially conflicted about what she wanted but eventually, she let her hair down and happily thrived with the passionate Jean-Michel (Jomar Martinez), a peasant in a different social class than her.
“Gabrielle is an individual who needs to find her own voice and she does,” said Gialdini, who is also former Miss Silicon Valley. “It’s good to see a message that tells women to be who they are. The girl goes after who she wants, not who her mother, who represents critics and the outside world, says she should go for.”
In the beginning of the play, Prince Topher (Edward Clark) sang the self-reflective “Me, Who Am I?” to show that he was still searching for his purpose. His connection with Ella resulted in his attention to the less privileged members of his kingdom.
“He knows there’s something more to life than being a ruler and slaying dragons,” said Clark. “It’s beautiful how Cinderella opens his eyes to the world around him. He knows he wants to be active in politics and give his people a voice.”
“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” will run at Foothill Music Theatre until Aug. 4. Visit www.foothill.edu/theatre/productions/Cinderella.html for more show details and to purchase tickets.