Cinderella, the beloved tale of a rags-to-riches (and shoeless) princess, is opening this week with a Tony Award-winning update at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre. Broadway star Kecia Lewis plays fairy godmother Marie, and recently discussed taking her kid on the road – and why little boys dig this Cinderella, too.
If you go
Runs Dec. 16, 2014- Jan. 4, 2015
Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W Randolph, Chicago
The list of your Broadway credits is impressive – but I have to say, I recognized you immediately as a Law & Order judge.
Oh, how funny! (laughs) That’s awesome.
But back to theater – do you have a favorite role?
I’d say Effie, in Dreamgirls. That’s probably my favorite – it was also my first.
In your bio you state that your favorite role is being “Simon’s mommy.” Tell me about your son!
Simon is 11 years old. He’s a sixth grader. Since he started school my policy was generally not to take any work out of town during the school year; any job during the summer, I’d take him with me. Well, a couple of years ago, I booked the tour of Chicago. It was a national and international tour, so we did some cities in the U.S. and then we went to Japan. During that summer, I took him with me and we had the most amazing time. Just in terms of bonding and experiencing new things together and the food and sightseeing and I thought, you know, if the right job comes along, I would take him out of school, homeschool him and give him that opportunity. And then Cinderella came along and here we are.
Is Simon impressed by your job, or is it just another thing that moms do?
He’s pretty balanced about it. He likes it, he recognizes that it’s special, but he’s not super impressed by it. Of course, since I’m his mom it’s no big deal.
Do you think he has any theater aspirations?
I think he does. Right now, though, being a pre-teen, he’s going through his “I don’t want to do anything like my parents,” so he’s claiming that he doesn’t want to act or sing, but he’s actually quite good. I put him in a performing arts school a couple of years ago and he got to sing at Radio City. He’s done a couple of plays, and I think he has a special gift if he chooses to do it.
Is it true you and Paige (Faure, who plays Cinderella) are traveling with your kids for the tour of Cinderella?
Yes, she has little Hank. He’s two and a half.
Those must be some pretty fun after-parties.
Well, she doesn’t bring Hank. She’s pretty strict about his bedtime. Me, on the other hand … I let Simon hang out.
11 is a different ballgame than two.
Exactly. It’s working out. It can be challenging, of course, and stressful, because I’m kind of doing double duty with homeschooling and the show at night. I’ve actually made a couple of calls out to people who are going to help starting in January, and hopefully that’ll relieve me a little bit.
The Cadillac-Palace is one of those great Golden Era theaters and it was actually inspired by the design for Versailles – what’s it like walking that stage?
We haven’t gotten there yet! We get in on Monday (the 15th) and our first performance is Tuesday (the 16th). I can’t wait. We’ve been doing one-weekers [tours] since October, and we’ll be in Chicago for three weeks. It feels like a vacation.
Tell me a little bit about the cast.
The cast is really wonderful. We don’t have one weak link. I’ve been very, very impressed with the cast and the caliber of work ethic they’ve shown. The ensemble rehearsed for one week before the principals came in and then we all worked together for two weeks. Which was amazing – to be able to put up a show this big in three weeks. It’s been really wonderful and impressive. We have a nice mix of young folk just out of college, and then there are four of us who are more seasoned; we call each other the AARP Group. When we have note sessions, usually everyone’s sitting on the floor, and the four of us will say “Chairs, please.”
Hey, take your perks!
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s score for Cinderella is so great – what can we expect from this new take on such a classic show?
Well, there are a couple of songs that were not in the show, taken from the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon. For example, there’s a new character named Jean-Michel, a rabble-rouser, who falls for one of the stepsisters. He has a song called “Now Is The Time,” which is this political action song. That song was actually cut from South Pacific. And one of my songs, “Music In You,” was not originally part of Cinderella, either. We have a couple of new twists and takes on things.
Do you have any favorite scenes or moments?
I think my favorite is probably the transformation. There are about five transformations that happen onstage in front of your eyes and you can’t figure out what just happened; it’s during my other song called “It’s Possible.” My character transforms from kind of a homeless townsperson into the fairy godmother, Cinderella from her rags to her beautiful ball gown, a fox and a raccoon become people, the mice become horses, the pumpkin becomes a carriage; it all happens in one scene. That’s pretty exciting – you can hear people holding their breath.
Who should come see this show?
This version is geared for all kinds of people and all kinds of ages. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many little boys I’ve met after the show who liked it. It starts with a giant, a woodland creature, that Prince Topher fights, so boys are into the show from the very beginning because of that. And being empowered by characteristics of kindness, charity, and generosity – that’s something that speaks to a lot of younger women.
I think it’d be a great date night show because of the classic music, for folks who are familiar with the show from ’57 and the telecast with Lesley Ann Warren in ’65. It really is a true family show.
And our book, which was updated by Douglas Carter Beane, has a kind of modern sensibility to make it very funny and up to date. One of the stepsisters, after she’s kind of snubbed by the prince and he’s trying to find Cinderella, she starts her song by going “SERIOUSLY?”
Oh, that’s magical.
Yeah, it’s fun. From grandparents to little ones, it really is a fun show, so come and check it out!