Saint Viator production of 'Cinderella' breathes new life into classic love story

A handsome prince, a fairy godmother, and a royal kingdom. Saint Viator High School's presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" has all the elements of the beloved fairy tale, but with some surprising twists.

"While the show is over 60 years old, its beautiful score is still able to warm our hearts," says director Megan Gray. "The script, however, may be a little different than you remember."

The show opens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, and continues with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3 and 4, and a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5. Purchase tickets, $15, at The school is at 1213 E. Oakton St., Arlington Heights.

Saint Viator is producing the Broadway revival version of "Cinderella," which opened in 2013 and was adapted by Douglas Carter Beane. In it, he drew on the French version of the fairy tale, Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre, by Charles Perrault.

"Beane breathes new life into these roles that we know and love. Now they are complicated and comical, they have personalities and agency," Gray says. "Ella and her Prince Topher do not simply meet and fall in love immediately, but rather they share ideas about how to make the world a better place and connect on a deeper level.

"These additions to the book make their love story all the more meaningful," Gray adds, "and especially poignant during the ballad, 'Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?'"

Senior Margaret Fecko of Arlington Heights plays Cinderella, and while she loves all the singing and dancing, it's the gradual evolution of her character that she is working to bring out.

"She feels so much pressure from her stepmother, who makes her feel like she's unworthy," Margaret says. "It's not until she meets the prince and she opens his eyes to conditions in the kingdom that she begins to feel her value."

Senior Declan Newell, who plays Prince Topher, rehearses a scene in Saint Viator's production of "Cinderella." Courtesy of Saint Viator High School

Senior Declan Newell of Arlington Heights is cast as Prince Topher. He has appeared in musicals since his days at Our Lady of the Wayside School, but playing the prince in this version of Cinderella offers him the chance to portray a deeper character.

"In the Disney version, the prince is pretty flat," Declan says. "In this version, there's more to him, he has more emotions."

There are also some new characters in this production, including Sebastian, who is an adviser to the prince and the main antagonist in the story. Another is Jean-Michel, a poor revolutionary and love interest of one of the stepsisters.

"There's a bit of a political subplot, with fighting going on for who gets control of the kingdom - the people or the nobility," says senior Luke Peterson of Arlington Heights, who plays Sebastian. "It's still the beautiful love story, but it's so much fuller."

Students portraying townspeople rehearse for Saint Viator's production of "Cinderella." Courtesy of Saint Viator High School

In all, there are 34 students in the cast, and just as many working behind the scenes building the set and making costumes, and playing in the pit orchestra.

Sophomore Lily Webber of Hoffman Estates is one of the stage managers. She is working with her classmates to complete a giant staircase, a royal carriage, trees that move, and Cinderella's house, to name just a few.

"There are so many moving pieces in the set," Lily says. "We're still working on them, but it will be great when they all come together."

Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" is Saint Viator's 57th musical, and it extends the school's run of featuring Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. In the past, the school has produced "Carousel," "Oklahoma!," "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music," and often more than once.

"Saint Viator has a long-standing history of producing musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein," Gray adds. "We thought it was about time we added 'Cinderella' to our repertoire."

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