The Drama Club’s spring musical is a New Paltz High School tradition that never fails to pack the Otto Grassel Auditorium on South Putt Corners Road, and the production slated for April 3 through 5 should be no exception. It marks a return to one of the classics of mid-20th-century musical comedy repertoire: Cinderella, the only work written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II specifically for the new medium of television. Its relatively short 76-minute running time makes it perfect for a high school stage production.
Originally conceived as a live vehicle for Julie Andrews, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1957 adaptation of the Charles Perrault fairy tale was revived on TV in 1965 with a new cast, starring Lesley Ann Warren in the title role. That version of Cinderella, taped and rebroadcast many times in the ’60s and ’70s, burned itself into the memories of many a Baby Boomer. A 1997 movie version with a multi-culti cast introduced the charming score to a new generation; and now there’s a radically rewritten adaptation running on Broadway.
“The reason we picked this play was that we realized we had never done a Rodgers & Hammerstein,” explains Drama Club advisor Nancy Owen. “This one seemed to have the most female parts — and they’re fun parts to play. Plus it has such a beautiful score. I’m excited that we’re going to have violins and a cello — a whole pit orchestra!”
According to Owen, when a Broadway production of a play is still running, obtaining the rights to mount another production in the same region can become problematic. “It had to be outside a certain distance of the City,” she says, so that there would be no fear of drawing off part of the audience — even if it’s only a high school production.
It’s a challenge for the Drama Club, with its tiny production budget and all-volunteer cast and crew, to put on a medieval-themed extravaganza like this. “We had to come up with 40 ballgowns,” says Owen. “Luckily one of the girls’ aunts had owned an old bridal shop, and she still had a barn attic full of old gowns.” A community volunteer who loves to sew, Heidi McGuire, got very excited when she heard that the students were doing Cinderella and volunteered to make a dress for the heroine. “It’s gorgeous!” Owen exults.
The student crew also had to come up with some fairly elaborate sets and props, like a properly elegant chandelier and magically-transformed-pumpkin carriage, on a shoestring — and with “no flyspace and no backstage space,” as Owen notes. Plus, the entire set has to be broken down after each rehearsal so that the school band can use the auditorium stage. As for “stage magic” on the cheap, Cinderella’s big transformation scene will be accomplished mainly through the use of “fog and black light.”