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A Cinderella story

Dalhousie Opera Workshop performs the classic fairy tale

- February 6, 2014

Ashley Cook as Cinderella and Benjamin Shaw as Prince Charming. (Nick Pearce photos)
Ashley Cook as Cinderella and Benjamin Shaw as Prince Charming. (Nick Pearce photos)

And they lived happily ever after.

It’s the familiarity, the knowing what’s going to happen and when, that drives generation after generation to see productions of fairy tales.  

“We grew up with this story," says Linda Moore, the director of the Dalhousie Opera Workshop's production of Cinderella. "People love the idea of recognition and going to a performance that they know. There’s this emotional gamut because you don’t know if things are going to work out, but as the audience you know that fairy tales do work out.”

Moore hopes young and old alike will come enjoy the magical and enchanting fairy tale story brought to life by Dal students.

“Students have been vital in creating the visual components of the show,” she explains. “Each stage in the production was a demand.”  

This included working with voice students from Dalhousie’s Department of Music who perform the roles, working with theatre students, including a lighting student, a prop student, a set student and a graduate from the university’s costume studies program, as well as a choreographer to master the dancing involved in the lively singing production.  The salon opera, written by Pauline Viardot and first performed in 1904, is accompanied by piano featuring music reminiscent of Chopin and Tschaikovsky.  

Bethany Ingraham as The Fairy Godmother, Ashley Cook as Cinderella.  

Asked why people are drawn to the story of Cinderella, music student Meghan Jamieson, who plays Cinderella’s stepsister Amanda, says, “You are raised on Cinderella as a child. It’s the culmination of dreams, of going from rags to riches because of the choices you have made in your life. She was nice, a good person, and she was rewarded.”

Stepping into character

Cinderella, the star of the show, is played by music student Ashley Cook, who describes her character as someone who is “very thoughtful, down to earth and clever. She has a longing to break away from her family and just wants to be loved and dreams of getting away. She cares for people and just wants that in return for herself.”

She says she enjoys the role because it’s a call back, in some ways, to her own childhood.

“When I found out I got the role, I was a little nervous, but then I stepped away from that and get to live out this little girl dream — especially now that I get to wear the costumes and glass slippers. It’s just magical.”

As we all know, Cinderella finds love with Prince Charming, played by music student Benjamin Shaw, who, to prepare for the role, watched movies with princely types of characters to see how princes carry themselves with pose and nobility.

“All the other characters have humor, but he’s serious about finding a girl who doesn’t value wealth and title,” says Shaw. “What’s different with this production of Cinderella is that the prince is disguised as a chamberlain, so he can see and find the true person he loves.”  Dalhousie’s production is a classic, but with some twists and turns.

And even though she plays one of the villainous stepsisters, Jamieson says her favourite character in the story is the fairy godmother.

"If you could combine all the stereotypical fairy godmother type of characters, she is that, all cute and bubbly. She really brings the element of Disney in. Children especially pay a lot of attention to the performance because instead of just watching dialogue, there’s music to it. It’s great show for families.”

Dalhousie’s salon opera of Cinderella, presented by the Department of Music's Opera Workshop, plays from this Thursday to Saturday (February 6-8) at 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Performances take place at the Sir James Dunn Theatre in the Dalhousie Arts Centre. Tickets are $20 regular admission, and $15 for students/seniors. For ticket information, visit the Dalhousie Arts Centre website.


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