Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CinderellaSection 4A, Entertainment News, Entertainment Feature Thursday, April 30th, 2015
LGBT Weekly talks to Andy Huntington Jones who plays Prince Topher in this classic show
Believe it or not the story of Cinderella, now made immortal both on screen and on stage, got its start in 1634 when Giambattista Basile wrote the Italian folk tale. Since then it has been rewritten a few times usually based on the Charles Perrault version written in 1697.
The Disney film was released in 1950, and in 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein were approached to write a musical version for CBS television starring non other than Julie Andrews in the title role.
The musical version has been remade for television two other times and hit the stage numerous times from 1958 to the present day. In 2013 the show was given a new book by Douglas Carter Beane and opened for the first time on Broadway in March of that same year.
The music stayed the same, a few new characters were introduced and a few new twists were added to the already classic tale of a young girl’s wish to attend the prince’s ball.
Broadway San Diego brings the classic Broadway tale to the Civic Theatre May 5-10, with a cast of Broadway veterans (Paige Faure, Andy Huntington Jones, Kecia Lewis) and Emmy and Golden Globe winner Fran Drescher (The Nanny) in her first Broadway role to date.
Jones, like Faure, began his journey with Cinderella on Broadway and is now touring with the show. As he explains it, wanting to be a performer started for him at a very early age and it has simply just stuck with him.
I grew up wanting to perform,” Jones said. “My early career aspirations included actor (that one happened), magician, clown, puppeteer, etc. I was cursed from the start. A production of Pippin at our local high school comes to mind as a turning point. I was eight. I saw Pippin. End of story. I was hooked. I was introduced to the world of Rodgers and Hammerstein in community theater throughout my adolescence. R+H were my introduction to musical theater, which is fitting because they were the pioneers of the art form, and although this is my first involvement with Cinderella, to revisit their material as an adult is a joyous and full-circle experience.”
Jones, who grew up in Boston, Mass., was fortunate enough to not only be raised by two mothers but both women were also very supportive of his theatrical aspirations.
“I am very lucky to have grown up with two moms,” Jones said. [They] married in 2004, walked down the aisle by yours truly, and they were both incredibly supportive of my artistic inclinations. One of my mothers was a music teacher many years ago and plays the piano very well, so when I started to perform my mom became my accompanist. Although I studied piano as a kid, her piano genes were not passed down to me.”
As a young actor Jones recalled going through show programs, trying to learn all he could about the performers in those shows with the hopes of one day working beside them. However, if he had to choose a role model as he was growing up, it would be his parents.
“I admire my parents for the adversities they had to overcome raising a son twenty plus years ago,” Jones confided. “They were brave and normal at the same time, and I am lucky that my parents encouraged me to follow my passion.”
As for having a favorite actor while he was growing up, Jones says that actors who took him by surprise were the ones that left the most positive impressions.
“I admire actors that surprise me,” Jones said. “I love experiencing a performance that ignores expectations. My current admirations include Alex Sharp, Thomas Sadoski, Sir Ian McKellen, Miles Teller, Audra McDonald, and the list could go on and on. I admire actors and performers that make me want to jump out of my seat and tell a story myself.”
Jones also said that, as a child, there wasn’t one version of the Cinderella story that he preferred over the others. For him, the story is one we can all relate to on some level.
“I never grew up with any one telling of Cinderella,” Jones said. “I think Cinderella has seen countless interpretations in many different cultures because the story is universal. Everyone can relate to the disadvantaged girl whose life is transformed overnight. In addition to the Rodgers and Hammerstein score that we have loved for the past 50 years, our telling of Cinderella gives Cinderella some credit for her transformation: she is intrinsically good and kind and this is what sets her apart from the rest of the kingdom. Douglas Carter Beane has written a new script for our telling of the story and it’s funny, and smart, and it inspires through its message that kindness can change the world.”
The new script has also given Jones a new look at the struggles and life decisions that his character, Prince Topher, has to endure and how that relates to his life as well.
“I have loved playing this version of the prince,” Jones admitted. “He isn’t the ‘princely’ archetype. He is a normal person, doing his best, with an abnormal amount of responsibility and I think we can all relate to feeling overwhelmed. Prince Topher falls in love with Cinderella because she shows him that his confidence was there all along. Their love is more than two pretty people dancing at a ball: they bring out the best in each other.”
Jones admits his favorite part of playing Prince Topher, and favorite part of the show, is both technical and emotional.
“I love seeing the prince transform (gradually) into a man much like Cinderella’s dress transforms. The dress transformations are incredible and jaw-dropping.”
As for what he hopes, or thinks, audiences will take with them after seeing the show, Jones gives an answer that the prince himself would most likely echo.
“I think that audiences are walking away remembering the positive power of kindness.” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
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