WPU Theatre Returns with “Cinderella”
Kenan Auditorium welcomes back WPU Theatre for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020. Students are thrilled to perform their rendition of “Cinderella,” which opens Wednesday night and runs through Sunday evening. The WPU and Raleigh communities are invited and encouraged to attend.
Versions of the classic tale have been performed on stage since the 1800s. Disney released its animated musical in 1950. Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II created another musical version for television, which first aired in 1957 and starred Julie Andrews.
The WPU Production is based on the 1997 televised version, starring Brandy Norwood as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother. The cast and crew consist of WPU students from multiple areas of study, including theatre, communications, political science, and psychology.
Director Jennifer Williams and Musical Director Matt Hodge said they are thrilled to be back. While WPU has put on smaller performances in Leggett Theatre, Hodge said there’s nothing like a show in Kenan’s larger auditorium.
“We’re thrilled to return with a family-friendly and fun show like Cinderella,” Hodge said. “We have been planning these shows a year ahead so to see the show actually happening is like a reminder of why I love my job.”
Preparation for such shows takes many months. The cast of Cinderella started their rehearsals by going over lines with Williams at the beginning of September.
Choreographers Jess Barbour and Deanna Richards — a WPU alumna, Class of 2021 — worked with the cast to create beautiful dances for ensemble scenes such as the “Village” and “Ball” scenes.
Hodge said he is impressed with the cast this year, especially their work on the big songs such as “The Prince Is Giving A Ball” and “It’s Possible.”
“With their hard work, generosity, and patience, the singing and dancing on stage have come together, making musical a piece of art worth watching and hearing,” Hodge said. “Audiences will be impressed.”
Zyon Ross, a senior in musical theatre, will play the role of the King.
“The most exciting part about the musical process was not only getting a role but the costumes and lights,” Ross said. “Seeing the show come to life with big lights and costumes make the stage become a dream come true.”
Special thanks to Denise Schumaker, the costume designer, and Steven Dupor, the lighting director.
Takeaways from our student actors: We asked the cast how they felt about bringing Cinderella to the stage.
Q: What memories are you taking out in Cinderella?
A: “There are so many! Cinderella is one of my favorite musicals, my mom introduced it to me, and it has been in my heart ever since. Just getting to be able to do it now has been so incredible. And I could not be more grateful to be a part of this production.
-Kamli Padilla, Junior – Stepsister Grace
A: It’s a bittersweet moment because this is where I grew as a stage manager. And this is the last time I ever get to do it here in WPU before I go out there in the real world. So it’s been a blast. I’ve gotten to do this show with people I have known since I got here and people I just met this year — they are all now close friends. It’s a fun time to be the ringleader of the circus.
-Brian Martinez, Senior – Stage Manager
Q: What is the funniest part of the musical Cinderella?
A: Ooooooh, I think playing a mean character, in all honesty. I usually don’t get to play mean characters, and I don’t get to play an antagonist in a show. So, it’s been really fun trying to play with levels and see where I could go with my character and how mean I could get in some scenes. [It’s been fun to] see how I can switch between nice and mean. Switching is so funny, going from [in a sweet voice] ‘Oh my darling, I’m so proud of you’ to [switches to dark and mean voice] ‘Shut up.’ It’s just really fun, and I love it.
-Oliver Feeny, Sophomore – Stepmother