Kaitlyn Mayse wasn’t always a princess.
It took more than a dozen auditions before Mayse joined the touring production of “Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella” back in 2017, initially landing work as an ensemble member and understudy.
When a vacancy opened up for the lead role last year, Mayse was still on the road and unavailable for New York tryouts, so the company orchestrated a fairy tale moment of her own: It arranged for her to take center stage during a New Jersey performance of “Cinderella” so the show’s producers could behold the princess-in-waiting.
“It was the scariest 2½ hours of my life,” Mayse said in a recent phone call from a tour stop in Atlanta.
The non-equity tour runs Friday through Sunday (April 12-14) at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans.
“On one hand, I get to do the entire role at my audition. When do you ever get to do that? But also, I was like, ‘I have 2½ hours to mess this up.’ So it was a little bit scary.”
“Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella” was conceived as a 1957 television special starring Julie Andrews and featured new music from the legendary composer-and-lyricist duo. The musical was well received and was remounted for television twice, in 1965 and 1997, before being revamped for a stage debut.
The show premiered on Broadway in 2013 with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane intended to update the familiar story for contemporary audiences.
The more fully developed character of Cinderella, said Mayse, “strikes a balance between the classic sweet ingenue princess and a strong-willed woman of 2019.”
In this new tale, “Ella,” as she’s known, pursues the prince not for the promise of romance or fortune, but for the opportunity to advocate for friends and townspeople being oppressed by the kingdom’s wicked rulers.
“It’s still your classic Cinderella story — we’ve got the fairy godmother, the pumpkin, the prince,” said Mayse. But in this telling, “the prince is not just charming, he’s kind of going through an existential crisis.”
“Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella” features well-known songs from the original show, along with a few additional “trunk songs” mined from the duo’s leftovers ( including “Now is the Time,” originally written for “South Pacific,” and “I’ve Lived and I’ve Loved” which was cut from “The Sound of Music”).
The spectacle includes Tony Award-winning costumes by William Ivey Long and, according to Mayse, some jaw-dropping “blink-and-you-miss-it magic.”
“I think what is powerful is going to the theater and seeing something that is comforting and nice," she said. "Then, we can add new bits and new things that are surprising and add to the fun.”
WHEN: Friday-Sunday (April 12-14)
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 1111 Canal St,
TICKETS: $30 and up
INFO: BroadwayInNewOrleans.com or (800) 982-2787