Who can forget the mesmerizing folk tale of Cinderella? Having been adapted for animation, musicals and plays, books, and movies, the story of this young girl kindles a fire of passion and love inside the hearts of little kids and even adults. The instant the glass slipper fits on Cinderella’s foot still sends a jolt of excitement and exuberance, and maybe even goose bumps!
This timeless classic has been given a youthful twist by the Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA)’s Theater Troupe together with the school’s orchestra team and Visual Arts students from grades 7 to 10.
(BWYA Spring Musical Cinderella Poster Design)
The Spring Musical: Cinderella was the biggest and most complicated musical production in terms of staff and performers participating, props, background designs, makeup designs, music, stage lighting, and sound in BWYA history. The double challenge for students and teachers this year revolved around the chosen play.
(Issac Zhou as Prince Christopher, left; Finn Holmes as King Maxmillian, right; Photographer: Mr. Steven Proud)
For this year’s production, the main cast from BWYA Theater Troupe included Angelina Zhang (Cinderella), Issac Zhou (Prince Christopher), Anastasia Borodina (Evil Stepmother), Benjamin Li and Linda Zhang (Evil Stepsisters), and Angel An (Fairy Godmother). Aside from the contributing cast on stage, backstage staff including lighting technicians, makeup artists, sound mixers, and run crew (props supervisors) also worked hard to make the production appealing and satisfying.
On the performance stage were three panels, each made up of three smaller blocks showing different sceneries, and which could be turned to show scene changes.
(Three panels on the stage depicting different scenes, and movable boards at the front showing the village scene)
The musical was a co-production by professionals and BWYA students. Creative director Adam Combs, music director and producer Jan Rues, costume director Fabrizio Pacitti, set illustrator Paola Ibarra, and vocal coach Stina Chu were joined by students: assistant director Rendolm Qian, rehearsal stage manager Ivan Song, wardrobe manager Selena Gu, and production stage managers Audrey Chen and Martin Li. They all worked non-stop and were a big part of the reason why this play turned out to be so successful and so hard to say farewell to in the end.
I worked as a makeup artist for actresses while my colleague Yvonne designed and did the actors’ makeup during the rehearsals and the final performance. I must say the experience was a real challenge because I had never learned how to apply makeup. So the only words that I used to encourage myself were, “I will learn.”
I believe that makeup is a beautiful and expressive form of art. Not only can makeup create more attractive and appealing actors, but it can also help them develop their characters, just like Yvonne and I did with the evil stepmother’s design. We made the eyeliner tilt higher at the corner of the eye to illustrate her proud, arrogant, and flirtatious characteristics. This was a big part of the reason why I volunteered to take the opportunity, even though I am not especially keen at it. After watching so many tutorials on YouTube and taking various pieces of advice from the wardrobe manager Selena, I gradually grasped the key concepts of makeup and realized exactly how enjoyable and amazing it was. Repeating the same thing over and over is always lackluster, however, trying a new skill and achieving a good result is innovative and meaningful.
The final performance was held on April 1 and the whole cast and crew put on their best despite minor technical glitches and performance errors. During the scene where Cinderella transformed into an absolutely beautiful and stunning lady and arrived at the palace in a golden carriage, all in the audience were clapping and shouting, sending a wave of satisfaction and felicity to our hearts knowing that all our efforts and hard work put in were finally rewarded.
(The Evil Stepmother’s House: Benjamin Li as Stepsister Joy, left; Anastasia Borodina as Evil Stepmother, middle; Linda Zhang as Stepsister Grace, right; Photographer: Mr. Steven Proud)
In an interview with the director, Adam Combs, he said that this year’s spring musical was indeed quite challenging and complicated, “but all of the actors gave their best performances and it turned out so well and spectacular in the end. BWYA have another pending drama production, a stage play in this year’s fall.”
One of the main cast, Anastasia Borodina who played the Evil Stepmother said she tried to express her character’s complex personality, calling it an “interesting character.” “I believe the Evil Stepmother has niceness in her but doesn’t really know how to express it. I think she sees a lot of Cinderella in herself and it brings back memories of her own childhood, which is maybe why she can be a bit tough on Cinderella sometimes.” The Evil Stepsister, Joy, was actually portrayed by Benjamin Li. He said his decision of acting in the Evil Stepsister role was that “The fact that she is so horrible to people makes the role a lot of fun as I get to say things and act things that I wouldn’t dream of doing in real life. Furthermore, it allows me to produce a dynamic, charismatic performance, and improve my drama skills.” Actor Michael Yang played several roles including a little white mouse and a royal palace guest. He said that even if he took on several supporting roles, he still gave 100 percent. “I believe that no one is born an actor, but through hard work and giving our best we can make people enjoy our performance.”
(12 o’clock scene: Gordan Chan as royal steward, far left; Candice Wang as Queen Constantina, middle; Issac Zhou as Prince Christopher, middle; Finn Holmes as King Maxmillian, right)
The BWYA crew began preparation for the Spring Musical Cinderella as early as August. Most of the crew members said they felt sad when the musical came to a close as they grew close to each other during the eight months of preparation. I told myself, “Who can promise that there will be no missing, no flashbacks and no returning to the moment that would have been otherwise gone? No one.”
(Grand Finale: On the stage are all the backstage and orchestra members who greatly contributed)
Having joined a musical about a popular story reminiscent of our childhood moments granted me and other BWYA students the chance to embrace our aspirations once again. Even though the show came to a close, its impact and memories will never fade away as they were imprinted in all of the BWYA Theater Troupe’s hearts.
photos: Penelope Zhang, BWYA