The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Broadway musical Cinderella is on stage at Center Stage Theatre in Shelton, Connecticut through February 27. In case you’re not familiar, Center Stage Theatre is an inclusive and intergenerational community-based theatre that not only provides affordable performances (this is the start of its 17th season!), but also educational programming and volunteer opportunities!
Following the run of Cinderella, a Junior version of the show, featuring performers ages 7-14, will take to the main stage March 5-12. This full-scale musical will feature the same lights, sets, sound and costumes as the main stage production, AND the student performers are receiving mentoring time with the senior cast.
Suburbs 101 had the chance to chat with Elise Sullivan (“Cinderella”) and Jonah Garcia (“Topher” – The Prince) about Cinderella in between their first run of performances this past weekend!
Tell us about the show – is this the traditional Cinderella story that so many of us know and love?
Jonah: For the most part, yes! Cinderella, her family, a fairy godmother, a prince – all the things that people are used to seeing in the Cinderella story are there. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way, though. There are new characters, a few new parts to the story, and a script that’s full of laughs!
Elise: It is definitely the classic Cinderella but with a twist! People will know the storyline and the familiar happy ending but will be in for a treat with the differences that this stage version brings. It really is just a ball of fun, and perfect for all ages. The kids will love the fairytale aspect, and I think that the adults will also have a lot of fun and appreciate the classical music from Rogers and Hammerstein.
What is it like playing such an iconic couple? What is your favorite part of your role?
Elise: It has been such an amazing experience bringing Cinderella to the stage. I have loved getting to play this role because Cinderella is truly such a special person even without all of the fancy clothes and magic. She hasn’t been treated the best in her life but tries to never let that get her down, and in the end, it is her good heart that brings her to Topher. I could’ve never dreamed in a million years that I’d be playing a princess… it is truly a dream come true!!
Jonah: It’s been so much fun bringing these characters to life – I love that audiences can instantly recognize us as our classic characters, but that we still get to surprise them with dialogue and songs and situations they’ve never seen before. My favorite part of playing Topher is how he changes over the course of the show. He starts out asking who he is, mostly under the control of other characters, and by the end he takes control of his life and starts to figure out how to help other people.
What is your favorite part of the show?
Jonah: The palace ball! Most of the first act builds to this scene, and it has some of everything that makes this show so great. There’s dancing, beautiful costumes, and some lovely moments between Prince Topher and Cinderella. It’s also the scene where Topher starts to speak out for what he wants, and when he really starts to connect with Ella.
Elise: My favorite part in the show would have to be the transformation sequence which is filled with so much fun and magic between Ella and her fairy godmother. I also love the ball sequence for the beautiful dancing and costumes. I try to really put myself into Cinderella’s shoes at that moment because she is just so happy to be at the ball and connect with Topher.
This is a special show at Center Stage, being the first in its history that is also presenting a Jr. version of the production. What has it been like working with the student performers and mentoring them?
Elise: When I was a student at Center Stage, I would always look up to those that were older than me. It is so special to now be on the other side of that and watch these students grow up and become such great performers. I love that I can be a resource for the younger students and someone to look up to, both on and off the stage.
Jonah: I’ve loved talking with the junior cast members. They all seem so excited to be putting on their show, and it’s great that they get to lead in their own production at such a young age. I’m sure their show will be one to look forward to!
What types of opportunities does Center Stage offer for performers of ALL ages wanting to get involved on-stage or behind-the-scenes?
Elise: Center Stage has been a second home for me since they opened their doors and I have been so fortunate to experience every aspect of what Center Stage has to offer as a performer, a student in classes, a volunteer and a patron. Part of what makes Center Stage so special is that we are truly a family and everyone works so hard to bring these shows and programs to life. Center Stage is also so welcoming to all abilities, whether that’s wanting to perform, or help behind the scenes. The theatre offers classes throughout the year, as well as summer camp, which was always one of my favorite times of year. It also provides adults with a creative outlet and a space to just have fun.
Jonah: This is my first show with Center Stage, and I’m so impressed by everything I’ve seen. They have classes of all kinds for aspiring performers, and our cast has members ranging from high school to seasoned adult performers. I’ll say that I was a little nervous coming into my first show in a couple of years with an unfamiliar group, but I felt like part of the Center Stage family right from the beginning of the process. It’s a great group to be a part of!
Thanks to Elise and Topher for speaking with us in between performances!
Get Your Tickets to Center Stage Theatre’s Cinderella and Cinderella, Jr.
Tickets to Center Stage Theatre’s Cinderella and Cinderella, Jr. are now available online. Also visit the Center Stage Theatre website to learn more about educational or volunteer opportunities at Center Stage Theatre.