The Magic of Cinderella

The GSB Players' production of Cinderella, which staged six sold-out performances, closed this evening to rousing applause. For the past three months, everyone involved with the show has been working together to bring the magic of the story—the enchantment that turns a plain yellow pumpkin into a golden carriage—to the GSB stage.
 
The production was staged in the round. The audience sat just outside the walls of the town, surrounded by forest that had been painstakingly constructed by performing arts teacher /assistant producer Todd Ross '94. With the movement of a few props, the stage changed from town square to ballroom, a long checkered floor separating Cinderella's cottage at one end from the palace at the other. In the ensemble numbers, weeks of choreography practice with Margery Schiesswohl P '17 (ninth-grade dean and performing arts teacher) translated into thrilling exchanges, as dancers filled every corner of the theater, almost brushing against the audience.
 
In addition to the wow factor, the transformation of the theater reflected the Cinderella story itself, in which the seemingly ordinary becomes magnificent. Underscoring that theme, moments of transformation were among the most visually stunning in the play. Toward the end of act one, Brooke Stevenson '18 sheds her rough cloak to reveal herself as the fairy godmother, ethereal and dazzling. Cinderella (Kelly Schiesswohl '17) twirls, and her simple blue dress becomes a sparkling white ball gown; then she removes the kerchief that has hidden her long dark curls. Moments later, a golden horse-drawn carriage (one of the most closely-guarded surprises in the production) enters.  
 
These external transformations are beautiful on stage, and they mirror the internal changes taking place throughout the story. At the center is Cinderella, who elevates the others through her kindness and generosity. When preparing for the role, Kelly sought to "reflect a little of the story’s magic in rehearsals and in daily life." Like all GSB Players, she takes hard work as a prerequisite for being in a production, but she knew Cinderella would require something more. "Since the beginning, I did my best to always be hopeful and positive because Cinderella is always hopeful and positive. That’s the real magic that makes things happen in the story." Andrew Lutz '20, who played the prince, confirms that "Kelly always had a smile on her face," and he is grateful to her for helping him improve his performance. "She was almost like a second mom to me," he notes. "We spe­nt a lot of time working outside of rehearsals on perfecting our dances; it’s pretty amazing for a senior to work with a freshman like that."
 
That spirit of one person bringing out the best in another extended to every aspect of the production. For example, all of the cast members credited the direction and meticulous costuming of Performing Arts Chair Paul Canada with elevating their performances. "When I put on the jacket and shoes for the first time, I literally stepped into the character," A.J. Witte '19 (Jean Michel) remembers. As a student in Canada’s costume design course, Kaitlyn Sleyster '17 (ensemble), saw firsthand the work that went into creating the 60+ costumes for the show. "Mr. Canada designs and hand sews the dresses for each production," she explains. "For Cinderella, we researched clothing, hair and accessories for 1830-36, and everything in the show reflected that specific time period. We always use historical patterns, and for this production, corsets were worn under the dresses because that is what women would have done in the 1830s."
 
For every actor who appeared in Cinderella, there are dozens who worked behind the scenes to make the performers shine. While it would be impossible to recount each interaction, those contributions were evident in the final production. As Kelly offers, "The cast and crew work hard, and along the way it is easy to forget how much the teachers and the parent volunteers are putting in. But then we get to tech week. We see the sets, we step into our costumes, and suddenly everything is real. It shows us how much the parents and teachers care about the production and how each of us inspires someone else to make the show even more magical."
 
Congratulations to cast, crew, and all involved with this unforgettable production. 

gallery of images is available online.
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Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.