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Richmond theatre retunes classic with modernized Cinderella story

The stepmother in the classic fairytale is 'truly wicked but not evil.'

A classic fairy tale is getting a modern twist at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre in December.

From Dec. 14 to 31, the theatre will show Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, a musical that originally aired in 1957 on CBS with British actress Julie Andrews in the lead title role, .

Johnna Wright, the director of the play, said although the play has many of elements from the original Cinderella story, it will have more meaning for today’s audience by depicting the role of women differently.

“There's a lot more emphasis on Cinderella making choices about our own life and looking at the world around her, not just looking for a handsome prince,” she said. “So that's probably the main difference, and it's a lot of fun to see her do that.”

The theatre’s production will also see the return of a recognizable villain — Cinderella’s stepmother. She is called Madame in this play and is played by Black actress Lossen Chambers.

“It's just such an iconic role,” Chambers said. “I never thought that I'd be ever playing something like this in my life. As a Black performer, things have always been very, very rigid as far as being able to sort of cross those barriers, and so I'm really grateful for this production just to have new eyes and think outside the box.”

This is the first time Chambers is playing a villain, and she’s excited about the opportunity.

Madame is “truly wicked but not evil,” as well as stern and a little over the top.

The character will have some epiphanies during the play, she said.

To prepare for the role, Chambers studied the stepmothers from various versions of Cinderella, such as Amazon’s film from 2021 and Broadway plays.

After observing how the music and dance rehearsals go, Wright added she believes attendees will be highly impressed by the skill and talent of the cast and team.

Wright hopes audiences take away a character’s message after watching the theatre’s production of Cinderella.

“There's one line that happens somewhere near the end of the play where the fairy godmother says to Cinderella, ‘If you have a dream, you have to fight for it,’” she said.

“So, she's not there to make everything happen for Cinderella. She's there to give Cinderella a chance. It's a magical chance because it's a fairy tale, but it's still just a chance that Cinderella then has to do something with.”

Adult tickets start at $40.

The first performance, however, on Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. is a pay-what-you-will performance whereby attendees can choose to pay anywhere between $10 and $60.

To view showtimes and buy tickets, visit www.gatewaytheatre.com/events/rodgers-hammersteins-cinderella/.

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