Haddonfield Memorial High School’s Drama Club is bringing magic to its theaters with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” beginning March 18. While it is based on the same version as Disney’s ‘Cinderella’ and has similar elements, like an orphaned girl meeting a prince and a fairy godmother, the play’s director Matt DiDonato explains there are some notable differences including the prince’s backstory and a social justice element to the show.
“I think it’s much more applicable to represent society today versus the older versions and renditions of Cinderella,” said Katie Walsh, the junior who plays Cinderella. “It’s easy to think Cinderella is out of touch with reality but this version of Cinderella is very much grounded in reality.” She notes that this version is not just about Cinderella getting the prince or the prince saving her, but rather a mutual relationship where they both help each other.
Griffin Adams, who plays Prince Topher, agreed with Walsh that he enjoyed the updates made to the story.
“I like Prince Topher better than the average Cinderella prince because he’s more layered,” Adams explained. “He isn’t just the ‘charming prince,’ he is more awkward and he’s more human and real than a common, kind of boring and attractive prince.”
In the past couple of years, DiDonato shared that their department has been lucky to be able to hold their performances in person. In 2020, the school’s final performance wrapped up the weekend before COVID shut down the schools. In 2021, they chose to hold their performance of ‘Gypsy’ later in the year with smaller audiences limited to two people per family in-person in addition to being live streamed. This year, the drama club is back in full swing and offered a fall performance with a full audience and for the spring students will be able to perform without masks.
“(Cinderella)’s a really huge show, not just because of COVID, coming off of COVID and getting back into the swing of things but we’re doing the show full out,” DiDonato said. “Our costume crew and our set construction crew are working around the clock and there’s so much singing and dancing.
“I’d say we picked a show that was really big and we’re trying to do it to what the expectation is, and we’re trying to give people what our shows used to be like before the pandemic.”
Stage Manager Ann Haas explained that it was a big show both in terms of the singing and dancing numbers, but also because it’s fantastical.
“We’re aiming for something hard to believe,” Haas said. “Every character is kind of a stereotype, every character is like the epitome of what they could be.”
Haas said that the crew has been working on the sets since November. These include an elaborately painted backdrop of a forest, a cottage, a palace and interactive trees that characters can engage with.
While the pandemic appears to be winding down and students will be able to perform without masks, it has not been an easy ride. In January, Walsh and several other students had been in quarantine and participated remotely. DiDonato shared that out of last year’s uncertainty came a newfound flexibility to allow for more contingency plans where previously, there was none.
“It’s been a very long time since people have been to live theater and so getting to bring that back has been very exciting for us this year,” Haas said. “I think this show is so grand that it’s really going to give people the drive to come back and remember how a production like this can kind of take you away from reality for a few hours and bring you into a different world, which is something I think people have been missing during the pandemic.”
Haddonfield Memorial High School’s ‘Cinderella’ will take place on March 18, 19, 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m. and on March 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets are on sale online at https://hmhs.booktix.com/.