‘Cinderella’ hits the stage today at the CAC

BY ALISE CHAFFINS

In the 18 years Lee Blair has been at West Virginia University, the school has never performed a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

That changes today, as the WVU College of Creative Arts brings the iconic duo’s “Cinderella” to the stage.

“Cinderella” premieres at 7:30 p.m. today in the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre in the Canady Creative Arts Center. Subsequent shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday, noon and 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets to it and other events may be purchased at wvucca.universitytickets.com.

The musical originally appeared on television featuring Julie Andrews. When it was moved to Broadway, more songs were added. The book was later updated by Douglas Carter Beane, adding more depth to the characters, particularly Prince Charming.

“The new book fleshes out the prince’s character a little more,” Blair said. “He’s a bit wary of taking the throne. He’s not sure he can do it. And then you have Cinderella, of course. And she’s not just waiting on a man to show up and save her. I think the character Cinderella has always been independent, but I think this one steps in a little more to tell the prince there are things going on in the Kingdom. The villagers and the lower class are losing their land. She lets the prince know, you’ve got to take care of this. She pushes the prince to take a stand. And in that, so does she.”

One of the challenges of doing a classic musical like “Cinderella” is the size of the cast, Lee said. Because of the number of people involved, rehearsals have been going on since mid-February. The show pulls from different disciplines, with students from the School of Music and the School of Theatre and Dance, including the puppetry students. But Blair believes it’s worth it for something as grand as this.

He also compared the style of contemporary musicals to those of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

“They’re very operatic, contemporary musicals,” he said. “The songs go on and on. That’s part of the structure and it’s part of the style. The songs in a Rodgers and Hammerstein are very succinct. They’re very specific to the plot. They created what is the American musical, truly. There were musicals before Rodgers and Hammerstein there were musicals after, but they made it as strong an art form as it is.”

Asked why someone should come out to see the show rather than just watching one of the live-action versions on television, Blair said being there in person is the point.

“When we go to the theater we sit with other people and see theater live and experience the reaction, not just of yourself, but of everyone around you,” he said. “And theater happens in the moment and you never ever have it again. You can film it. You can listen to it on Spotify, or whatever, but that’s not theater. Theater is when you sit with others, and actors step onstage and tell a story.”