A good fairy godmother sees a problem and waves her magic wand to fix it.
A great fairy godmother sees a problem and waits to see if a princess can fix it herself.
Audiences will see how a fairy godmother works in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Cinderella,” running Oct. 27-Nov. 1 at the Saenger.
The show features the familiar — a fairy godmother, pumpkin carriage, lost glass slipper, white horse, masked ball and a handsome prince — but adds its own twists and introduces us to a Cinderella character who isn’t just a damsel in distress.
“The Cinderella character doesn’t sit at home feeling sorry for herself and wait for someone to come save her or for a prince on a white horse, although he does have one,” said Liz McCartney, who plays the Fairy Godmother. “She saves the prince as much as he saves her.”
With Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, there’s no passivity. Think powerful female role model, mom and dad.
It’s also a departure from the expectations some have of Cinderella, as for many, the Disney film springs first to mind. While harboring some of the elements of the 1950 animated film, such as talking to animals, it also carries a certain amount of political intrigue.
“It’s an everybody story because everybody can see themselves on that stage,” McCartney said. “Everyone can see themselves within this fighter Cinderella. We also have a revolutionary in the show, and he’s trying to show the prince how the people are being ignored and abused. Everyone can see themselves in that role, too.”
But for those interested in the magic, there’s plenty of that, especially in the transformations. The Fairy Godmother goes through one and so does Cinderella. Revered and Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivey Long engineered the most striking examples of this magic.
They are so complex and beautiful that McCartney isn’t sure how it’s done, even in her own transformation.
“Being the fairy godmother, I am the conductor of the magic, but quite honestly, it is really the magic of William Ivey Long, the costume designer,” McCartney said. “There’s a dress that Cinderella magically gets transformed into. I’m 5 feet away from her, and I still don’t know how it happens. We throw things in the air, and the next thing you know, she’s in a completely different dress.”
The Fairy Godmother goes through her own Long-designed caterpillar-to-butterfly makeover. After a few magical utterances, McCartney is swept into a brief darkness and returns the magical guardian of the beloved Cinderella.
Forget your expectations; this is a performance for both kids and adults. There’s plenty of magic and intrigue to more than carry both groups through the show. But be prepared to travel back in time as you’re overtaken by the childlike wonder that first drew you to the Cinderella fairy tale.
“It’s wonderful just hearing the new orchestrations and the new take on the story,” McCartney said.
“I get to fly on the stage, and I see the excitement on every kid’s face, and by every kid, I mean every audience member who becomes a kid from the beginning of the show. Everyone is transported to this fantasy world that we create.”