There is a reason that the tale of “Cinderella” has lived on for hundreds of years. It is a timeless story that encapsulates the hardships of youth, the trials and tribulations of true love and the triumphant overcoming of unjust oppression. Though simple in its message, “Cinderella” has the power to transport us into worlds of splendor and fantasy that require nothing more than our imaginations if only for a night.
This month, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” will grace the Fabulous Fox Theater for four nights and eight shows Dec. 27-31 as part of its nine-month national tour. Kaitlyn Mayse, who is part of the ensemble cast and understudies for Cinderella, will make her hometown debut in St. Louis, the city in which she was born and raised and in the very theater that sparked her love for performing.
“My parents took my brother and I to the Fox all the time,” says Mayse. “I remember seeing so many shows there and I’d collect all the playbills. That was definitely a huge influence on my life having all those tours come through when I was a kid. The biggest ones for me were ‘West Side Story’ — that was the very first one I remember seeing when I was 6 years old — and ‘The Lion King.’”
From there, Mayse pursued a career in the performing arts at Indiana University and began work in regional theaters in both St. Louis and Bloomington, Indiana, where, among many other roles, she carved out a niche for herself in the fairy tale genre, performing in plays such as “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Into the Woods.”
“I love tons of different genres but it seems at least right now that fairy tales and princesses are sort of my niche,” says Mayes. “I just played Belle in ‘The Beauty and the Beast,’ I played Rapunzel in the past, and I’m understudying for Cinderella now, so it’s something that I’ve worked on a lot to hone. When doing princess roles and things like that there’s a fine balance that I try to strike; people have certain expectations about what a princess should be but sometimes it could be fun to make her a little quirky or a little more defiant than how people would normally see them.”
Just like Mayse may alter her characters, back in 1957, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, reimagined the Cinderella story for a TV musical starring Julie Andrews, and though it followed a similar structure, it gave audiences a lot to get excited about.
“When they remade that story for Broadway in 2013, Douglas Carter Bean, the playwright, wrote a new book for it so you’ll find a little bit stronger version of Cinderella in that book if you’re only familiar with Disney’s story,” says Mayes. “He also goes much more in depth with certain secondary characters and their relationships. You’ll hear more about the Prince and what he’s going through, you get to learn about the Kingdom where it all takes place and it gives you a lot more context, which I think is really exciting for audiences. A lot of times people don’t expect that, they expect to see the Disney version and it’s definitely not that, so it’s exciting for people to come and to realize that this is something new. It’s something familiar but it’s a little bit different.”
During the performance, you may have to look intently to spot Mayse, who wears many faces over the course of the night. “I’m part of the ensemble, so every night I play a peasant and a paige boy and I actually portray a very large woodland creature puppet at some point,” says Mayse. “That’s what I do on a regular basis and then I also understudy Cinderella and Gabrielle, who’s one of the stepsisters. I have gone on for Cinderella once already in Palm Springs and that was very scary but exciting, and I had a lot of fun with it.”
You can catch “Cinderella” at the Fabulous Fox Theatre beginning Dec. 27 and get caught up in the magic just as so many have. Whether you’re young or just young at heart, Cinderella is a story worth telling and offers something for everyone.
“A lot of it goes back to nostalgia for some people,” says Mayse. “It’s comforting to see, especially now. It’s a new take on something that you are familiar with and it’s exciting to see something that’s a little different but is still very familiar to you. People enjoy getting to see the characters they loved but in a whole new way.”
For tickets, click here. M