The Cinderella story has its roots in 7 BCE Greece, but the most well-known European rendition is Charles Perrault’s Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper, which was published in 1697 in a volume of stories known familiarly as Les Contes de ma mère l’Oye (Stories of Mother Goose). Since then, the universal story has been refashioned for myriad formats, including film, television, and the stage. Cinderella, her adorable animal friends, and the tune “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” remain iconic today.
In 2013, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella made its Broadway debut. With a rewritten book courtesy of Douglas Carter Beane, the production had a successful run through January 2015, spawning a national tour in 2014. The popular musical has been staged across the country ever since and will be alighting in Santa Barbara November 27-28. Presented by the Theater League, the organization that brings Broadway favorites to the Granada, the show’s previews attest to this rendition’s vapor, lighting, and magical wonder.
Carter Beane’s modern script promises characters with depth, including Cinderella, the prince, and even the evil stepsisters. “They have twisted the story,” said Kaitlyn Mayse, who plays Ella in the Theater League’s production. The thriving young actress now lives her dream at 25 years old. She moved to New York after graduating Indiana University to pursue her passion for acting and has advanced by leaps and bounds professionally. Amid her country tour and hectic rehearsal schedule, Mayse managed to squeeze in a light-hearted interview with the Santa Barbara Independent. The following is an edited interview with Mayse about the Broadway production and her role as Ella.
When did you start developing an interest in performing and how did it evolve? I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Dancing was the first gateway into [performing], which I started when I was 4. My aunt worked at a high school in St. Louis, and they needed one more munchkin in The Wizard of Oz production. They had me come in and fill out the cast, and I immediately caught the bug.
As I progressed, I had to start making choices; I stopped playing softball and soccer so I could go to acting classes after school. I started voice lessons when I was in 7th grade. I ended up going to Indiana University and got my BFA in musical theater [as well as] a dance certificate. From there, I moved to New York City.
What was your auditioning process? Since you were previously Cinderella’s understudy, was it a natural progression to her role? No, actually, that’s usually not the case. An ensemble member who knows other tracks as an understudy [is] actually more valuable because you can do several different things instead of just the one. So, when I had expressed interest in doing the role, they said, “Well, we’ll see. You can audition.” It wasn’t just a “Here you go.” They still had auditions in New York for the role when I was out on tour. Luckily, I had a scheduled performance as Ella in New Jersey. … So our company producers, directors, and choreographers came out to see me. That show was my audition, which I think was the most stressful audition of my life. But I guess it went better than I thought. [Laughs]
What was your concept of Cinderella before you had this role? How has it changed? We all grow up with this idea of Cinderella as a woman who needs to be saved. And that it’s sort of an outdated story. But the thing that shines through in all of the fairy tales, regardless of the version, [is her] kindness. And her kindness is what gets her far in life. That’s something that really sticks out to me and something that I really reinvested into the role once I took it on.
We are lucky that Douglas Carter did rewrite a new book for the show. In this version, [Cinderella] has more of a story to tell. She has more drive and ambition and is her own person. She’s not a doormat. Just because she’s kind does not mean she lets people walk over her or that she doesn’t have her own dreams and aspirations. It’s a fine line. It’s hard to play sometimes, and I’ve had to look at [it] again and again.
How does this production of Cinderella differ from other versions before it? This production that we’re touring currently is the new Broadway production that went up in 2013. So there’s a new book by Douglas Carter Beane and new orchestration. All the songs are Rodgers and Hammerstein’s songs. All of the songs that were in the 1957 Julie Andrews television broadcast are in the show, but we’ve added more. Because that broadcast is about an hour long and this is a full-length musical. So they had to go back into the archives and dig out what they call trunk songs — which are songs that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote at one point. So some of the songs in the show were cut from shows like South Pacific.
I think what differs most is the [new] book. They have twisted the story. There are new characters. There are new, fleshed-out relationships. The prince is not just a prince. Cinderella is not just a meek girl. Even the stepmother, the sisters — everyone has more to give in this show. There are some twists and turns and new plot, but I don’t want to give anything away.
Theater League’s presents Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella Tuesday-Wednesday, November 27-28, at The Granada Theatre, 1214 State St. Call 899-2222 or see granadasb.org.