Princes and pages and mice, oh my!

My mother e-mailed asking whether the Cinderella cast rehearses every day. The short answer is yes. But there are a number of exceptions, which depend somewhat on your role in the play. The cast of Cinderella breaks down into a number of groups:

  • Cinderella and Prince Charming
  • The Fairy Godmother and her two helpers
  • King Darling III and his two pages
  • The Wicked Stepmother and the two Ugly Stepsisters
  • The Young Prince
  • The Mouse Ponies
  • The Ensemble

The Mouse Ponies are the six children who play the mice that get transformed into ponies to pull Cinderella’s carriage. The Young Prince is a boy who appears in a musical number in which the Prince reminisces about his youth and ends up singing a duet with a younger version of himself. The Ensemble is everyone else, the actors who populate the two big crowd scenes: the Prologue (in which the peasants celebrate Christmas in the town square) and the Ball. I don’t list the quartet as a separate group because it really has no separate identity after the song that starts off the play; the quartet members merge into the crowd of peasants and are not seen again as distinct characters. I should also mention that the Mouse Ponies and the Young Prince appear in the Prologue as the children of the town.
Everyone except the Ensemble and the Mouse Ponies is usually spoken of collectively as the Principal Characters — in other words, the folks who actually have lines. Of the 14 scenes in Cinderella, the Ensemble and the Mouse Ponies appear in only four of them. The entire rest of the play is carried by the Principals. So they definitely earn their top billing. But some of them are in more scenes than others, or are involved in more musical numbers. Cinderella appears in eight scenes, but the Fairy Godmother is in nine, and her two helpers appear in 13 — every scene but one!
What does this have to do with the rehearsal schedule? Well, the first week of rehearsal has consisted of learning and practicing the songs, which involves pretty much everyone. (However, the Mouse Ponies only sing with us on two songs, so we do those songs first and then let the mice go home. We also gave them Halloween off so they could go trick-or-treating.) But in week 2, we’ll concentrate mostly on the dance steps for the Ball, which doesn’t involve the mice. So they’ll get to skip those rehearsals. Moving into week 3, we’ll start to focus more on the blocking of specific scenes, and if the Ensemble or Mouse Ponies aren’t needed for those scenes, they’ll get the night off. For example, November 5 rehearsal will focus on the blocking of scenes 2, 3, and 4, which are Principals-only. So the Ensemble and the mice are off that evening.
In week 4, we’ll begin running through the entire play from beginning to end. This means that the non-Principals will spend most of the evening offstage, waiting. The adults in the Ensemble will chat, play cards, or read books, but what about the mice and the Young Prince? It’s the job of the Mouse Nanny (or as I prefer to call her, the Mouse Wrangler) to keep these seven kids corralled, quiet, and occupied when they’re not needed on stage. This year’s Mouse Wrangler is Marie, and I’ll write about that in another post.
There are several other reasons that we may not have a rehearsal on a particular day. First, that day may simply be listed as OFF in the rehearsal schedule for reasons known only to Haskell (the director). For example, November 20 and 23 are off days. Second, that day may be a holiday. This only happens once for Cinderella: we get the four-day Thanksgiving weekend off. Finally, the cast may be progressing well enough that Jane or Haskell decides that we can afford to skip a day. For example, at the end of yesterday’s rehearsal, Jane said we were doing great and gave us Sunday off! Hooray!
But I went to RLT today anyway. In fact, the entire family did. Schoolhouse Rock Live ended its run today, and the final performance (a matinee) was followed immediately by a strike. Strikes are all-hands events; the entire cast and crew is expected to participate, along with anyone else who is willing to help. Marie, Ruth, and I all worked on that show, so we reported for the strike, and Ben came along to pitch in. We spent the afternoon striking the props and costumes, dismantling the set, and stripping all of the lights from the overhead grid in the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre. We also helped move the audience chairs, and the risers they had been sitting on, back against the walls to clear as much floor space as possible. (The Cinderella rehearsals will move into that theatre tomorrow, and we’ll need all the room we can get to practice dance steps.)
After the strike was completed, everyone adjourned to the Green Room for the traditional strike dinner. A good time was had by all.

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