“The smart and beautiful young Ella lives in the care of her wicked, self-absorbed stepmother Madame and her two stepsisters Charlotte and Gabrielle. In another part of the kingdom, Prince Topher is trying to find himself and learn his place in the world. When his scheming advisor Sebastian suggests throwing a ball so the Prince can meet potential brides, Ella and Topher’s different worlds come together. Expect the unexpected in this clever retelling of the beloved fairy tale.”
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella has gone on quite the journey. It is, of course, based upon the fairy tale Cinderella – but particularly the French version Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre (“Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper”). The only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical written for television, it began its life as a television movie, starring Dame Julie Andrews DBE.
The musical was first performed on stage at the London Coliseum in 1958 in a holiday pantomime adaptation that also used songs from Me & Juliet. Stage versions began to appear in US theatres by 1961, and there have been many since.
The stage musical success lead to another film version, this time starring Lesley Ann Warren, followed by another television movie in 1997 – the one that most people today are most familiar with. Produced by Whitney Houston, it featured a racially diverse cast, lead by Brandy Norwood (Cinderella), with Houston herself playing the fairy godmother, Broadway queen Bernadette Peters playing the stepmother, and EGOT-winner Whoopi Goldberg playing the Queen.
Believe it or not, it actually was not until 2013 that the television musical was adapted into a Broadway musical – even after all the success there had been with smaller stage adaptations. With a book by Douglas Carter Beane, the cast was lead by the controversial, unvaccinated Laura Osnes.
Following the 2022 Australian tour, the musical has now made it to the continent where the fairy tale originated. Indeed, this is not only the UK premiere of Cinderella but, rather, the European premiere!
The UK cast is lead by the incredible Grace Mouat, who first received recognition as an original cast member of Six, in which she was the swing and had to cover every single role! When I went to see the musical at The Lowry, as part of its first UK tour, Maiya Quansah-Breed was off, so she covered the (my favourite) role of Catherine Parr (whilst Alexia McIntosh, who had injured her back, played Anne of Cleeves sat on a chair). I had the pleasure of meeting her afterwards; she’s a darling.
I next caught her in the world premiere of & Juliet at Manchester Opera House, where she was, once again, a swing.
Now, at last, Mouat is receiving the recognition that she deserves.
The male lead, Prince Topher, is played by Jacob Fowler, who first found fame as a member of Since September, who won Little Mix The Search. The band also featured, Patrick Ralphson, a former University of Manchester student (and friend of mine) who I had the pleasure of interviewing as part of my A Tough Act to Follow series.
Fowler then went on to play the male lead (and antagonist), Jason “J.D.” Dean, in Heathers in the West End, and now he’s gracing Manchester with his princely presence. I recently had the chance to interview Fowler – stay tuned for the interview!
This adaptation is directed by Artistic Director and Co-founder of Hope Mill Theatre Joseph Houston, and co-directed and choreographed by Executive Director and Co-founder William Whelton – two fairy godmothers who are here to make our dreams come true!
Cinderella runs at Hope Mill Theatre from November 1 until December 11.