Royal reimagining: Student-run theater group adds depth to classic fairytale through modern production of ‘Cinderella’


Thursday, Jan. 25 to Saturday, Jan. 28, students and guests crowded Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall as the clock struck showtime to see Sinfonicron’s performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” Sinfonicron, the College of William and Mary’s student-run light opera company, brought its audience symphonies, song, stagecraft and dance that enriched Rogers and Hammerstein’s unique spin on a classic fairytale.

“It was beautiful,” Jacqui Zimmerman ’24 said. “It was amazing. It was probably the first time something of this scale was done in [Phi Beta Kappa], and it was phenomenal. From the pit to the costumes to the lighting to the acting and the singing, obviously — incredible.” 

Like Zimmerman, whose housemate Amanda Reed ’24 was a townsperson and a footman in the show, many audience members say they not only enjoyed the show itself, but also the opportunity to support their friends along with the College’s student-run theater groups.

“I have a lot of friends in the show,” Rhys McKee ’24 said. “I really wanted to come out and support them, and I also wanted to endorse William and Mary theater, especially William and Mary student theater. You know, they need all the support they can get. And I love helping out and going out to see a really good show.” 

Many of the changes made in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s original telling of “Cinderella” were meant to support the development of more multidimensional characters. While the story remains rooted in its quintessential narrative of a charming prince and a destitute housemaid finding “love at first sight,” viewers are given sincere reasons to believe Cinderella and Prince Topher are a strong pairing. The production also dedicates a large subplot to the kingdom’s civilians, whose homes have been unjustly seized and whose voices go unheard. Just before midnight, when the magic used by Cinderella’s fairy godmother to create her luxurious dress and carriage is set to expire, Cinderella uses her final moments with the prince to implore that he listen to and help his people. The prince, too, demonstrably values civilians’ well-being. 

Such nuance is also achieved via the production’s original characters, who often give Cinderella and the prince opportunities to grow and shine. Cinderella’s kindness, for example, is displayed early on in the show when she is the only one willing to extend a helping hand to Crazy Marie, an impoverished woman who later reveals that she is Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Gabrielle, one of Cinderella’s two stepsisters, is another welcome addition. Whereas Cinderella’s original stepsisters treat her with only contempt, Gabrielle gradually becomes a supportive sibling and friend as she helps Cinderella attend Prince Topher’s banquet, which he hosts solely to find Cinderella. Gabrielle’s character development continues throughout the show as she defies her mother’s outspoken wishes to pursue her love interest: the revolutionary Jean-Michel. Jean-Michel contributes immensely to the revolution subplot as he mobilizes the townspeople and relentlessly attempts to tell the prince of the civilians’ plight. 

In addition to a successfully reworked plot, Sinfonicron’s use of music was also a major part of the production. Before the curtains rose, viewers were treated to a lengthy sonic performance from the pit orchestra led by Orchestral Director Calder Sprinkle ’25. 

Sprinkle said he takes note of auditory reactions, such as laughter and gasps, and gauges an audience’s emotions prior to beginning a song. The variation in audience reactions between the different showings of Sinfonicron’s productions are what make the live experience so special, Sprinkle expressed. 

“Having an audience makes a big difference,” Sprinkle said. “One of the cool things about theater is the live performance aspect and the fact that you’re playing off the energy of the audience, so every night is different.”

Along with music, costumes like Cinderella’s two-in-one transformation gowns stood out throughout the show. Each outfit, crafted by Cinderella’s fairy godmother, was transformed on stage and, as Sprinkle noted, earned gasps from the audience. 

Sinfonicron continued showing its creativity with its props. The decision to represent a giant, whom the prince battles at the start of the show, with a pair of giant, papier-mâché feet can be attributed to the show’s director Joshua Mutterperl ’24, who hoped to avoid the “logistical concerns” associated with alternative approaches. Audience members were also audibly amused by the use of a robotic mouse, which skidded off the stage as Cinderella’s fairy godmother got to work transforming it into horses to steer Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. 

Spacing also factored heavily into the production. Characters appeared on the theater’s balconies, running down an aisle or in a break between rows. Mutterperl suggested this use of space was intentional and took time to praise the larger stage and location, which he said could bring to life a bolder set and bring innovative lighting ideas into play.

“I wanted to kind of make the full use of this space to celebrate having it,” Mutterperl said.

Cinderella was Sinfonicron’s first show in the recently renovated PBK Memorial Hall since 2018, according to Mutterperl.

“So I think, hands down, the best part about being in the new space is just having a place for everyone in Phi Beta Kappa,” Mutterperl said. 

The return to PBK Memorial Hall also supported Sinfonicron’s emphasis on community. Sinfonicron’s members return to campus at the beginning of January to dedicate three weeks (and the bulk of their winter breaks) to the show. During that intense rehearsal period, known as “camp,” members keep 9 to 5 working hours on weekdays and living in off-campus housing together before dorms reopen, Marketing and Outreach Director Andrew Eastep ’25 noted. 

“You really build community at the end of the day,” Eastep said. “Through all the work that people put in, through all the effort that people put in, you build something a little bit more than just the show itself. I forget so many times that all of this was done in three weeks. You know, I forget that these are friends that I — up until the beginning of January — didn’t know them, and now I couldn’t imagine what my life was like without them.”

Though Sinfonicron prides itself in prioritizing both community and craft, both Mutterperl and Sprinkle emphasized the importance of, first and foremost, having fun together.

“We want to make something really cool — we’re here to make art — but we’re also here to really enjoy it,” Sprinkle said. “And, hopefully the audience enjoys it as well.”


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