We all know the tale of “Cinderella.”
Poor, mistreated, saccharine sweet servant girl meets a handsome prince, who rescues her from a hard-knock life. It’s the stuff of movies, such as “Pretty Woman,” and could be met with derision in today’s culture.
But to Kaitlyn Mayse, who stars as Ella in the Broadway musical version of “Cinderella,” one of the show’s biggest messages is about kindness.
“The world needs kindness right now,” said Mayse, 25, from a tour stop in Riverside, Calif. “To watch kind people doing well is something we could all use a little bit more of. That’s a huge factor in why it’s been so successful for so many years.”
Mayse will star in the touring musical at the Pikes Peak Center on Wednesday and Thursday.
The show is based on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1957 made-for-television version of “Cinderella,” which starred Julie Andrews. When it finally landed on Broadway in 2013, it had been fleshed out to create a full-length musical through character development and additional side plots. Previously unheard songs by the famous writing duo were added, either tunes cut from their other shows or trunk songs, those tunes that were written but never used. Some of the show’s most popular numbers are “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”
Mayse embarked on the touring production of “Cinderella” in 2017 as a member of the ensemble and understudy for one of the stepsisters and Ella. When auditions for a future tour were announced, she immediately told producers she was interested but couldn’t audition because she was on the road with the musical. But she knew she’d be on stage as Ella at a tour stop in New Jersey, so producers went to see her there.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” she said about the performance, but clearly successful. About three months later, she was offered the starring role.
“Every time I went on as Cinderella, it was so thrilling and humbling to share this message of kindness and generosity with so many people,” she said. “I related to her in so many ways, and she teaches me so many things. To take it on and dig into it every night would be the greatest thing.”
And while, yes, Ella and Prince Topher do wind up together (hopefully not a spoiler), the new version of the predictable fairy tale has been updated accordingly.
“...this Cinderella is no passive damsel waiting for a rescuing knight. She takes charge of her destiny, so much so that she doesn’t lose that glass slipper; she hands it to the prince. It’s a conscious choice, see; she controls her narrative,” wrote The New York Times critic Ben Brantley in 2013.
Mayse agrees that the show pushes a more female-empowered narrative, which allows her to imbue her character with greater strength.
“She works with the prince to show him things about the kingdom and help him become the king he wants to be,” she said. “She’s like an ambassador for all the people whose voices aren’t being heard by the royalty. It’s more than a pretty dress.”
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