Performing Arts Flying in the Magic of Broadway’s Cinderella

October 19, 2021 / All News

In July, Jackson Academy Performing Arts students arrived for the first rehearsal of Broadway’s adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella wearing T-shirts and shorts. This week, they’ll don lustrous costumes and elaborately coif their hair, accessorizing with hats and gloves before stepping onto a stage set for magic to unfold. Behind the scenes and in the orchestra pit, it will take an immense amount of coordination and teamwork to keep all 49 cast members and 15 crew members in sync before, during, and after the show. As the cast and crew of Cinderella put the finishing touches on their preparations leading up to the opening performance Saturday evening, read about the amazing teamwork that enables students to soar to new heights in their craft – some of them, literally.

JA junior Stella Allen plays the part of the fairy godmother and, with a dedicated team of two staff members, three students, and one professional flight director supporting her, has learned how to fly. “The flight crew must learn the technique and be sure to recreate it exactly each time to keep the flyer safe and to maintain the integrity of the performance,” said Director of Theatre Arts Kerri Sanders. “For the flyer, it’s an enormous challenge to execute the flight technique safely while staying in character and navigating other technical elements like lighting and costumes.” As she glides above the stage during the show, Stella balances many priorities – and does it all while singing. “Keeping my balance is the most challenging for sure!” Stella said. “I have to be conscious of how much my arms are moving and keeping a steady position so I can sing. Flying is cool, but it requires lots of focus and practice to perfect!”

Like all Broadway musicals, this weekend’s show will feature several remarkable dance numbers, with stunning costumes adding color and sparkle to every turn and leap. Students will arrive more than an hour early to prepare their hair, apply stage makeup, and put on their first costume. To keep track of all the attire, each cast member received a “costume plot,” which is a detailed description of what they wear and when they wear it. Some characters have as many as five outfits for the show! Additionally, everyone rehearses costume changes meticulously – especially the quick ones. “My costumes make me feel powerful!” said Alex Guild, who portrays the stepmother in the show. “The hardest costume change is definitely the one that follows ‘The Prince Is Giving a Ball’ because it has to happen so quickly.” “The costumes are really amazing,” senior Gibson Cheney, who plays the role of the Prince, said. “Putting on the costumes is the finishing touch in the full immersion of the show.”

Alex described the challenges of learning choreography in a style that isn’t common at school dances or on TikTok: ballroom. “The tour jeté was definitely the hardest dance move for me!” she said. “It took tons of practice before I could do it somewhat decently.” Throughout the musical, students will frequently dance in pairs. Avery Adair noted that “The lifts and leaps involving partners were difficult to master because of coordination. The costumes added an extra level of difficulty because they are so heavy.” Despite the amount of work that goes into learning and performing the dances, the cast makes it look easy and fun. “All of the lifts and turns have to be my favorites,” said senior Gretchen Morris, who plays the role of Cinderella. Bryan Eubank, a sophomore, added that “The waltz is probably my favorite because it is just an all-around fun dance.”

As the cast whirl and glide on stage, a group of 18 instrumentalists will perform below in the orchestra pit, two of whom are JA students. The score of Cinderella features the bright sounds of woodwinds, brass, percussion, keyboard, and a string section. And since it wouldn’t be Broadway without sound effects, a program called MainStage adds magical tones to the music. Listen for the musicians to shine throughout the evening, particularly during the number ‘The Prince is Giving a Ball.’ Choral Music Director Amy Whittenton directs the orchestra for the fall musical and said, “‘The Prince is Giving a Ball’ is very fun to play for the orchestra. It is a dance number, upbeat, and has a sizable instrumental feature that allows the orchestra to show off their talents.”

All of these parts – the cast, crew, flight system, costumes, dancing, and music – will come together on a set straight out of fairyland. A collection of nearly 20 sizable rented set pieces will transport audiences to five different locations throughout the tale. “The students and staff did an outstanding job unloading the huge truck that delivered the set,” Sanders said. “In the professional world, trained stagehands can unload a truck at a roadhouse in an hour! It took us a bit longer than that, but I am very proud of our team for how safely and efficiently the set was unloaded.” JA Production Manager Ken Posey also built several pieces and included Theatre Production students in the process. In addition, he modified rented parts to ensure that they work correctly in the Performing Arts Center. To assemble and maintain the set, Sanders enlisted students in her classes, giving them a range of hands-on experiences in theatre. “In my theatre classes, I call them ‘all hands on deck’ days,” Sanders said. “These are the days during which all students in my classes participate in assembling sets, creating props, altering costumes – whatever it takes to get the show up!” While audiences won’t be able to miss the beautiful carriage or dazzling ballroom, a few details of the set are close to Sanders’ heart. “I love the woodbin and trees – two elements created by JA staff and parents. These elements create some of the magic in the show and reveal two of my favorite characters. To find out who, you’ll have to come to the show!”

Who is hiding behind the trees and woodbin? Will Cinderella go to the ball? Will the shoe fit? Find out this weekend when the magic unfolds, the impossible becomes possible, and Jackson Academy Performing Arts blows audiences away once again! There will be three performances for audiences to enjoy this weekend, with a special event preceding the 2:00 p.m. performance on Sunday, October 24. Princes and princesses are invited to wear their most resplendent finery to the Make-A-Wish Cinderella Tea! The tea will feature a meet-and-greet for photos with cast members beginning at 1:00 p.m. and lasting until the cast members prepare to go onstage at 1:25 p.m. Participants will also enjoy a boxed lunch, princess goodies, and glitter before the start of the show. The proceeds will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Click here to purchase tickets for the show and tea party.