Utah Valley University (UVU) and Sundance Mountain Resort raise the curtain on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical “Cinderella,” which premieres Thursday, July 21, and closes August 13, on the Eccles Stage Outdoor Amphitheater at Sundance.
“Cinderella” marks the 14th collaboration between the UVU Department of Theatrical Arts and Sundance Summer Theatre, a partnership spanning 15 years.
“This show really fits Sundance Summer Theater because it features a very enchanted setting with the trees before us, the stars, and the mountains,” said Chad Linebaugh, Sundance general manager. “Then you insert the great work that the UVU production team has done with the set and, in particular, the costumes. They have found a very magical way to make Cinderella come to life.”
UVU’s partnership with Sundance provides students with both engaged learning opportunities and theater work to put on their résumés. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are involved in every aspect of the show. Five of the seven leading roles are played by UVU students or alumni, and students participate in costume, set, and prop construction and management, stage management, and more.
“What we have is students that are developing a range of skills and multiple talents,” said John Newman, UVU theater faculty member and “Cinderella” producer, “and being able to forge a professional career, sometimes in multiple areas of production.”
“I think the show has that kind of professional standard,” said Dallin Suman, UVU musical theater graduate and actor who plays Prince Topher.
Suman said that when the director gives him a vocal, artistic, or acting note, it’s up to him to apply the direction. “And so, I can go to my vocal coach and work on it, or I go home and use my training to go through my script and rework some scenes. Any time you’re held to that high of a standard, you have to reach that bar. That’s been really helpful for me to be in a setting like that.”
A major benefit for students in the show is the chance to work closely with current and former UVU faculty in a new capacity. Rob Moffat, a former UVU theater faculty member, is the director, and Amanda Crabb, head of UVU’s musical theater program, plays the stepmother, Madame.
“It’s just been so much fun to work with [Crabb] outside of school,” said Lizzy Jensen, UVU musical theater junior and the musical’s leading lady, Cinderella. “I had a teacher last year who always said, ‘One day I will be your peer. I’m not going to be your teacher. We’re going to work on shows together.’ So it’s been really cool to kind of see that come to fruition and to work with Amanda in that way, to learn from her example. I know that our relationship will be different now going forward because we worked with each other in a different sense than we have before.”
UVU’s commitment is evident throughout the entirety of the production, both on stage and backstage. Suman and Jensen both feel that participating in “Cinderella” has given them a choice opportunity to apply what they have learned in their own UVU education.
Jensen said she learned an exercise to “get the text in her body” last year in one of her classes. “I didn’t understand what that meant until I was trying to do this show. I would do these exercises, I would ‘walk the lines,’ and I would practice with the punctuation, think about the focus points in the lines, and then I would take them back, and I was like, ‘Oh this is so easy . I understand what the playwright was trying to do with this.’ That was something that I learned so much about last year and finally was able to put into practice this summer.”
“I feel like UVU helped give me a strong work ethic, a strong artistic ability, and the emotional intelligence to work with the people around me,” said Suman. “After these five years of being at UVU, I just now have this giant toolbox that I can go around and apply to each new project that I’m in.”
For Linebaugh, UVU fits into Sundance like Cinderella’s slipper fits her foot.
“I’m just so grateful to UVU,” he said. “We’re just so thrilled with where we’re at with them as a production partner. I feel like they’ve gone to a new level this year. They’ve really put in just so much focus, time, and attention, and I think it really shows in the quality of the show.”
Learn more about the UVU School of the Arts‘ engaged learning practices and come see Cinderella at Sundance. You can purchase tickets on the Sundance website.