Enchantment on Stage: Exploring Cooper High School’s Cinderella Production

Issue 24: February 14, 2024

Two weekends ago I went to see Cooper High School’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The theatrical production showcased an array of exceptionally skilled actors, among whom Lauren Valentine emerged as a standout figure. Portraying the character of Marie, she effortlessly embodied the essence of a gentle yet profoundly wise mentor to Cinderella. What captivated me most about Lauren’s performance was not only her impeccable acting prowess but also her unparalleled vocal prowess.

Another standout star was Alex Hall as Jean-Michel, revolutionary activist fighting against social injustice and advocating for change in the kingdom. He falls in love with Gabrielle, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, adding a new romantic subplot to the story. What truly set Alex apart, however, was his masterful command of character voice, effortlessly channeling Jean-Michel’s fervor and determination with every line delivered. His magnetic presence onstage commanded attention, drawing the audience into Jean-Michel’s journey of self-discovery and transformation. Moreover, Alex’s impeccable comedic timing brought moments of levity amidst the unfolding drama, striking a delicate balance between poignancy and humor.  

From a technical standpoint, the production was executed with remarkable precision and artistry. The lighting design, in particular, was exemplary, skillfully capturing the essence and mood of each scene with finesse. The meticulously crafted paper trees served as captivating backdrops, their intricate details lending an enchanting background scenery. The use of rotating flats to have an inside and an outside of the house was a brilliant idea. This innovative approach maximized efficiency in terms of materials and space. Furthermore, the painting of the house, adorned with medieval accents, evoked an unmistakable sense of whimsy and nostalgia, evoking the timeless charm of classic fairy tales.

After the show I had an interview with the director of the Production, Kimberly Lewis. This is Ms. Lewis’ first year teaching at Cooper High. Below is the conversation we had after the show:

What inspired you to choose Cinderella as this year’s musical production?

“It was when I met the theatre students I was going to have. I thought okay we don’t have a lot of guys, but we got a good amount of talented guys and we got some phenomenal girls. We actually did karaoke day in class so I can test it out and see who can hit all the notes.”

Can you share any anecdotes or memorable moments from rehearsals?

“When I was running blocking with our leads, we had one day where we just got the giggles and every little thing that we did was so funny and we could not get through lines, that we just made it a fun day to goof off and improve a little bit.”

What challenges did you face while bringing Cinderella to life on stage, especially considering the limitations of a high school production?

“Three dress transformations and multiple locations with set made it really difficult. Then not having an assistant director, so we brought someone in part-time for technical stuff to help us build. Every single costume that we had was touched by someone for alterations for some kind of hem or change or all the things we needed to do. It was a tech-heavy show.”

Cinderella is a classic tale with many adaptations. What unique elements did your production bring to the story?

“So, I could’ve chose the Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella everyone knows, where she loses the slipper and he gets it. I was really attracted to the early 2000 adaptation from being a hero and these extra little things like the Jean-Michel character, the Gabrial Character, the fact she takes the shoes this time. I loved those twists and thought it was really fun.”

What message or themes do you hope the audience takes away from watching this production of Cinderella?

“I put this in my director’s notes, I really loved that these individual characters have to figure out who they are and how they are going to make a difference in the world, so it’s not just your lubby-dubby romantic story. It’s trying to own up to who you and finding your character and your place in the world and what you are going to do. Also, the whole, ‘There’s music in you’ which is on the back of our shirts.”

Looking ahead, what future productions or projects do you envision for the Cooper High School theatre department?

“Well, One Act is coming up and we are doing I Never Saw Another Butterfly which is a Holocaust production. It is a really sad play, but it is also really beautiful because it’s based on true poems, stories and pictures that children wrote and painted during the Holocaust in the Ghettos. Of course, I am brainstorming about next year as well.”

I want to thank Ms. Lewis for this interview and for putting on an amazing show. I loved the show, and I will be back to see their One Act.

I want to end this with a few thoughts on why I believe Theatre is an important aspect of Education in both High School and College. First, it fosters creativity and self-expression, allowing students to explore different characters, stories, and emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Additionally, it promotes collaboration and teamwork, as students work together to create productions, develop characters, and stage performances. Theatre also helps students develop critical thinking skills by analyzing scripts, interpreting themes, and making artistic choices. Moreover, it builds confidence and public speaking abilities, essential skills for success in various fields. Overall, theatre in education nurtures empathy, cultural understanding, and a lifelong appreciation for the arts, making it an indispensable aspect of the learning journey at both the high school and college levels.