A tale as old as time: 'Cinderella' set to premiere at Community Players
“Cinderella" opens at Community Players Theatre on Friday, with the popular, family-friendly musical set to run for three weekends in Bloomington.
Director Jessa Hendricker joined Community Players in 2017 with “The Little Mermaid.” She’s been involved ever since, but this is just her second time in the director’s chair. Hendricker previously directed “Miscast Cabaret” in 2021, CPT’s first live performance coming back from the pandemic.
“This is my first time directing here doing a full-blown musical,” she said.
Of the challenge, Hendricker said working on “Cinderella” has been a “healing experience.”
“I did a little directing in college,” she said. “Coming back and doing it with such a fantastic team and fantastic cast has been a really cool experience overall.”
Hendricker has previously choreographed musicals at CPT but chose to leave “Cinderella’s” ballroom scenes in Kylie Maurer’s capable hands.
“Trying to do this show, directing and choreographing all at once—I couldn’t have done it,” Hendricker said. “At one point I wanted to, but there’s just so much happening.”
Falling down a “Cinderella”-sized internet hole uncovers a story about as close to universal as it gets. The girl with the glass slipper shows up in Greek mythology and 12th century illustrations by Marie de France. There are Maltese, Chinese and Cambodian versions of the story. A 1697 fable by Charles Perrault was adapted by the Brothers Grimm, from whom the Walt Disney Company and Rogers & Hammerstein borrowed their librettos.
Community Players’ version is the latter. Hendricker employs Rogers and Hammerstein’s score first glimpsed by American living rooms in a 1957 CBS special starring Julie Andrews. An updated book by Douglas Carter Beane was used in the 2013 Broadway smash hit, and is what CPT audiences will encounter.
“I grew up loving princesses and Disney,” Hendricker said. “That was a very big tenet of my childhood and what got me wanting to do theatre. It’s always nice to step outside the world we’re living in to step into something new, but always drawing realizations to, how does this connect to us?”
In casting the production, Hendricker made a concerted effort to represent an array of ages, genders and races rather than lean into white, cisgender, Eurocentric tropes reinforced by many princess-driven narratives.
“There’s such an incredible amount of talent in Bloomington-Normal that hasn’t been tapped into,” she said. “We can continue to tell stories from different perspectives and understand that one’s perspective of a character might change or be different because of the actor playing that role.”
“It’s really important to provide avenues for those stories to be told.”
"Cinderella" runs through March 26 at Community Players Theatre, 201 Robinhood Lane in Bloomington. Tickets are $10-$20 at communityplayers.org.