“Brace yourself, there are no mice” in this Cinderella tale. Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s Cinderella has been reinvented by Douglas Carter Beane, the bookwriter, in this version coming to Chrysler Hall from February 2 – 7.
I spoke to Douglas Carter Beane in London. He was preparing for the West End debut of his musical, “Xanadu.” Being a Broadway bookwriter is like juggling ten plates with two sticks while sitting on an elephant. The bookwriter takes a concept, like the tale of Cinderella, and “creates theater where there is no theater.” Beane writes his version of the story, or “book,” figures out the structure, where the musical numbers will fit into the story, and writes all the dialogue. Beane likes to say, “if it was an action movie, I do everything but the explosions.”
This version of the Cinderella story started out as a made for TV musical starring Julie Andrews in 1957. It was the only Rodgers & Hammerstein musical written for television and it was broadcast live. Rodgers & Hammerstein created it very quickly. They were not even on the same continent when they collaborated on the program. Beane had access to the letters they wrote to each other about the production and musical numbers. By 1957, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had collaborated on Broadway hits like “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific” and “The King and I.”
Douglas Carter Beane was approached by producer Robyn Goodman to create a Broadway version of the TV show. Both Goodman and Beane wanted an “active heroine, not someone who was waiting around for her Prince to come.” Beane went back to the original tale of “Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper,” written by French writer Charles Perrault around 1697. Perrault had written the story as a satire of the French court, making fun of a culture based on ridicule and sarcasm.
Beane’s tale of Cinderella is about empathy and tolerance, with some funny thrown in for good measure. Both the Prince and Cinderella are orphans and alone. Cinderella brings kindness to the court and saves the Prince from all the nastiness and drama. In Beane’s version, one of the evil stepsisters is really not so evil and has a boyfriend of her own.
Douglas Carter Beane and the producers of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella know that this will be the first big-time live theater experience for many children. Beane says, “There are lots of special effects that are as old as theater itself, but still spectacular.” There is also that wonderful music by Rodgers and Hammerstein with additional songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein catalog perfectly chosen by Bookwriter Douglas Carter Beane.
I’m taking my eight-year-old granddaughter to see Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. She knows the Disney version inside out. I asked Beane if I should tell her about the differences in this Cinderella story. He laughed and made the comment about the mice. “The mice in the Disney version get way too much screen time.” He says bring your kids and grandkids and just let them enjoy the show. I did find a nice education guide for parents (and grandparents) who would like to explore the history of the story and the show with their children.
For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, click here.