‘Cinderella’ brings a lot of magic to musical stage

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KEARNEY — When director Corbin Williams talks about the musical, “Cinderella,” the word “magic” slips into his conversation.

“One thing I’m grateful to have is the knowledge of why the show was created and why certain elements of the show were included,” he said. “The original Broadway team was very meticulous about why there are certain scene changes and why things are written they way they are. They took the music from the Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1957 TV event, the one with Julie Andrews, and then they wrote a completely new book for the show.”

"Cinderella"

“Impossible things are happening every day.” Crane River Theater will present “Cinderella” June 18-July 3 at Yanney Heritage Park.

The writers adjusted the script for modern audiences. And modern performers.

“One thing I think is so great about the show is that a lot of people grew up having seen the Julie Andrews version, or if not that one, the Lesley Ann Warren version or the one with Brandy Norwood and Whitney Houston,” Williams said. “These songs have been around for so long. One thing I love about having it be a live stage production is that it reintroduces those classic songs that parents knew.”

Parents can enjoy the music they knew and younger audience members can get a fun introduction to the music of Rogers and Hammerstein.

“There’s a lot of magic,” Williams added. “We had so much fun in finding ways to completely transform the amphitheater into a set that can have magical elements right before our eyes.”

Crane River Theater presents Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” opening June 18 and continuing nightly through July 3, except for Mondays. Admission for the musical is $5 per person.

Corbin Williams

Corbin Williams

Williams, who currently lives in New York City, participated in Crane River Theater’s 2013 production of “Seussical the Musical,” “Grease” and then returned to central Nebraska to help with several “Songs From the Movies” concerts. For the start of the current season, Steve Barth, executive director of Crane River Theater, spoke with Williams about “Cinderella.”

“I actually worked on the national tour of ‘Cinderella’ and so, speaking with Steve, one thing lead to another and Steve asked me to direct the show.”

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Set designer Adam Jehle created a magical place to tell the story of Cinderella.

“One thing that has always mesmerized me is that Crane River Theater takes a bare, empty stage here at Yanney Park and completely transforms it into the world of whatever show they’re doing,” Williams said. “I’m impressed every single time. One thing Adam, our set designer, and I talked about was loving to see shows as a kid. I always loved then the show started without a curtain down. With no curtain, it gave the audience time to sit and look at the set and wonder what is going to come out there, what are they going to use that for, what is going to happen here. You really had a chance to get to know the set.”

An exposed set allows the imagination of the audience to run wild.

“It lets your imagination start filling in the pieces and creating ‘the world,’ so when the story starts, you’re already on board,” he said.

As for the magic, as the director, Williams doles it out responsibly in order to keep his audience’s attention.

Cinderella set

Set designer Adam Jehl created a unique world to tell the story of Cinderella. Corby Williams, director of Crane River Theater’s production of “Cinderella,” said about the set. “One thing that has always mesmerized me is that Crane River Theater takes a bare, empty stage here at Yanney Park and completely transforms it into the world of whatever show they’re doing.” The musical runs June 18-July 3. Admission is $5.

“The Fairy Godmother comes to Cinderella in her time of need and we all know that she gives Cinderella a carriage, a dress and the glass slippers, which are now famous,” Williams said. “And all of that ends at midnight. We have to create all that magic and we also have to let it disappear when midnight strikes. There is an element of magic, which is especially showcased with the costumes.”

Williams worked with costume designer Stephen Lieboff on the national tour of “Cinderella.” They are joining forces to the Crane River Theater’s version of the musical.

“He is building our show for us,” Williams said. “The set is essential to the show, but the costumes are, too. They are a big part of creating the story we’re telling. I’m really excited for audiences to see the costumes, too.”

Performing outside presents a unique set of challenges.

“It’s a huge hill,” Williams said of the seating area at the Cope Amphitheater. “We love it when it’s full. We like to joke, ‘Fill the hill!,’ and get everybody out here to see the show. There’s such a great energy you receive from looking out at the audience. In a typical theater, the audience is more compact. Here you get to see everyone take over this space, which just fills the actors even more. And coming out of the year we’ve just had, I really think this is going to be a great way to welcome audiences back to the world of live theater.”

rick@YardLightMedia.com

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