Cinderella, with a Twist

Summer Academy Players Presents: Cinderella (A Modern Makeover)

Hundreds of versions of the classic Cinderella story have been told in numerous cultures across history. But the Summer Academy Players are sure their interpretation will be the most hip ever.

“It still has the basic plot,” Jenna assured us.

“It’s just reimagined,” Birdie said.

The girls described the production as a modern comedy with lots of songs. Their teacher/director, Raven, added lines to make it particularly funny. “It’s nice to get a different director’s perspectives,” said Birdie.

Cinderella is not the helpless young woman we often see in the classic story. Instead, she is a passionate environmentalist (and meticulous house cleaner) who is looking for the perfect job, not the perfect prince.

“I’d say she is different because she likes cleaning,” laughed Kelly, who plays Cinderella in the play. Kelly described her character as “bubbly and naive. She really wants a job, not to marry a prince.”

When a job interview comes up, Cinderella’s parents are excited that she could earn a paycheck. But, they are also concerned she isn’t ready to go out into the world.

“My daughter has issues!” sings her father. “She spends her time talking with vermin and birds!”

He warns Cinderella: “Those people will chew you up and spit you out!”

“Ewww, that doesn’t sound very sanitary,” the cleaning fanatic responds.

Birdie, who plays one of the stepsisters named Stella, said the sisters are not as mean and abusive as they are in the stories. “They’re rude to Cinderella,” she admitted, but said their real goal is to be accepted into the royal social scene. “They’re really wanting the attention of the royalty. They’ll do anything for that.”

During rehearsal Wednesday, the cast of the fairy godfolk perfected their scenes in preparation for today’s productions. Clad in punk colors, metallic wigs, and crazy shorts or tutus, the fairy folk sang and danced around Cinderella after her father told her she was not permitted to interview for the job.

During the fairy folk conga line, the music suddenly stopped and the lights went on. The director asked the actors to run it again to work on projecting their voices. “Hey! I see you!” shouted one of the fairies, pointing to the tech director at the back of the auditorium. In a classic dramatic “aside”, the fairy informed us: “This is what we call ‘breaking out of character’“.

Quickly going back into character, the fairy folk decide to wrangle together Cinderella’s animal friends – the rats, birds, and mice – and use them to help Cinderella go to the interview.

“Those lunatics are going to change us into accoutrements of commerce!” cries the alarmed Rat Leader, a tough looking character with a black eye patch.

The vermin and birds break into song upon hearing their fate.

I like myself just fine! I don’t need to be updated!” they sing.

Once the fairies gather the animals together, narrators appear on stage to walk the audience through the next scene.

“Due to a clause in their contract, we can’t turn the actors into inanimate objects,” the narrators announce. They ask the audience to use their imaginations as they “transform” the animals into “a smart-looking business outfit, an extra large vanilla latte, and a deeply stylish…pair of glasses.” This theater magic transforms Cinderella from a rag-clad cleaner into an urban young professional.

“The pumpkin remained a pumpkin,” the narrators explain, “because Cinderella wanted to demonstrate her commitment to the environment by riding her bike to the interview.”

Cinderella’s job interview takes place with Reginald, a Prince played by Peyton. “I’m keen on green,” Peyton said about his character. He expresses this “keenness” in an extended musical solo. “I want to help the environment. That’s why I’m hosting the job interview.”

Reginald has performed in other theater productions, and he especially likes musicals. “You can express yourself openly, and nobody cares,” he said about acting. “If you mess up, you find a way to fix it and people don’t even have to know.”

The Players have the advantage of learning every aspect of a theater production during Summer Academy. Not only are they learning their lines, but they are singers, costume designers, prop masters, and set builders. “And, we act our hearts out!” an enthusiastic thespian exclaimed.

Earlier in the week, several actors put the final touches on costumes and props for the bird characters. “We’re assembling bird wings for the birds!” said Samantha. Birdie grabbed a bright blue cutout piece and fit it over her arm. “These are the bases of the wings,” she demonstrated. “You’ll put them on your arms like this and flap.”

Maddy received wings in a slightly different shade of blue to distinguish her as the “main bird” on stage. “We have the mice and rats and we added the bird friends,” Maddy said.

Sam explained part of the bird plot. “The fairy godfolk are going to change the animals into inanimate objects,” she said. “The birds sing a song that they don’t want to be transformed.”

The birds’ pleas are not successful, as we witnessed, but it works out in the end. “Without those birds, Cinderella wouldn’t have all the outfits, her sunglasses, and her vanilla latte,” Birdie and Jenna said.