Actress Ashley Park chats with RyeTheNewsGuy.com about her time with the new National Tour of Cinderella, which is just off the heels of a successful Broadway run at the Broadway Theater. Ashley chats about the show, her career, and whats next!
What is it like being a part of the touring company of Cinderella?
It's magical. Truly. I'm surrounded by a talented, dedicated, humorous, fun and utterly KIND company of people that make up our "forest family." This is a smart and fresh production of the classic rags to riches fairy tale that we all know. And so it's a blessing to share this story of Kindness and Compassion with the entire country alongside people who practice this... and the audiences have been incredibly receptive. In short, it's a giant magical "play"-date (pun intended) across the country... we work hard, while having so much fun along the way :)
What about this tour is DIFFERENT from the Broadway show, if any?
Our show is based on the 1957 Rodgers and Hammerstein televised musical starring Julie Andrews. And it plays homage to the 17th century setting of the classic Perrault tale. Our show is still the classic rags to riches story inclusive of a prince, fairy godmother, glass slipper, and midnight... but our production has a whole new vision by our creative team of Mark Brokaw, Josh Rhodes, David Chase, and Lee Wilkins with an updated script by Douglas Carter Beane that makes the characters and humor more accessible and relatable for modern audiences, with plot twists that leave our 21st century audiences on the edge of their seats. In our show, there are also Rodgers and Hammerstein songs that have never been heard before in any other production. In fact, some of the new songs were cut from other shows Rodgers and Hammerstein shows like "Now is the Time" (the Revolutionary song in our show) which was cut from SOUTH PACIFIC.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your character Gabrielle?
Gabrielle (aka. Gabby; Gabs; Gabby from the block) is one of Cinderella's two stepsisters... and she is nice! Gabrielle is not your typical nasty stepsister that seems a staple in other Cinderella stories. Gabrielle is lovable, goofy, bubbly, sweet, quirky, red-headed, wears glasses, and all around one of the most fun parts I've ever played, purely because I love her journey and I feel so much for Gabrielle especially throughout all her discoveries and awkward moments! She wants so badly to please her mother along with her sister Charlotte... but Gabby's heart just isn't in the idea of marrying a Prince in a beautiful ballgown. Cinderella and Gabrielle inspire each other to stand up for what they believe in and go after what they want. Gabrielle has a good heart, always wears pink, and also carries gummy candies in her shopping purse ;)
I understand that you and Cinderella get along a lot better in this production,compared to the original story we know! Can you tell us about Cinderellla and Gabrielle's relationship, how it formed, and how you guys become close?
I'll try my best to not give too much of the plot away, as I think Gabrielle's storyline and arc is an interesting twist and nice surprise to the audience! I think Gabrielle is just as much an outsider as Cinderella is, and both don't quite fit in at home with Madame (stepmother) and Charlotte (stepsister) for very different reasons. Gabrielle and Cinderella are cut from the same cloth as they are both inherently kind and compassionate. They find friendship and true sisterhood as they fall in love with men of different statuses, and help each other pursue their hearts' desires.
What do you find most interesting about your character?
I think Gabrielle is very relatable. She is awkward and quirky and wants to please, and she goes about her "crush" in a very similar way to how I would have when I was growing up. Her arc is interesting and fun to follow and all audiences (including me when I saw the show) seem to find Gabrielle to be interesting sheerly because she is unlike any other stepsister we've ever encountered in other versions of Cinderella. My very first lines as Gabrielle to Cinderella hold a tone of compassion, understanding, and humor which alerts the audience that our story of CINDERELLA will keep them on the edge of their seat.
What is your favorite song in the show and why?
I've always been captivated by full-orchestra Overtures, and the sweeping orchestrations of Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA "Overture" is no exception. Whenever I hear the first notes of the Overture, I get a flurry of excitement to do the show and love listening to the snippets of all my favorite CINDERELLA tunes as I put the final touches on my make-up and get my costume on. The "Pursuit" is also one of my favorites. It's a Rodgers and Hammerstein song that was chosen as one of the new songs in this Broadway and Tour version of CINDERELLA. The choreography is athletic and exciting as the Fox, Raccoon, and Cinderella narrowly escape the pursuit of the Prince and his men.
What have you learned about yourself as an actress from this show?
I've learned so very much from this process. I feel so lucky to have originated the role of "Gabrielle" for the touring production with a company that got to create magic together from day one. In "becoming" Gabrielle, I learned that it's not so much the actor "making" themselves into a character... but the actor breathing their own life and self into the character. Our director, Mark Brokaw, really allowed for us to all develop our own mannerisms and interpretations of our characters and their relationships to one another. It was amazing and still is everyday.
How does it feel to be a part of such an amazing show, that has broken barriers and casted it's first African American Cinderella (Broadway), and it's first African American Fairy Godmother?
I'm so happy about this too! I'm proud to be in this cast and feel blessed to have been cast by a creative team, producers, and casting director (Adam Caldwell of Cindy Tolan Casting) that worked hard to find their cast based on the heart, merit, and talent of those who auditioned, and without any bias in ethnicity. In fact, the Broadway production of Cinderella was the 2013 recipient of the AEA Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity on Broadway award. Our dance captain jokingly coined our Cinderella family as "CINDERELLA AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAM-CAST"
What has been your favorite city so far on tour?
Providence (although we all enjoyed the sunny Florida weather the past month). I'm looking forward to Chicago and Philly!
Do the set pieces and stuff get flown in if you guys are going to a far state? (I.e. Florida to Arizona) I have always wondered how they get to the destination in time for the show!?
That's a great question, which I wish I had an answer for!
What is a travel day like for the cast?
Travel days are always exciting because we are moving on to another city. But they're rather long, and we all try to stay low key as travel days are also technically our "day off." When we travel by airplane, stakes get comically high as we try to keep our bags under the 50 pound weight limit ;) When we arrive in our new hotel and city, many of us find our way to a grocery store before exploring the area and new city!
What is one thing you can't live without in your dressing room?
The small bottle of Peppermint oil that my friend, Deanna, gave me as a parting gift on my last day with MAMMA MIA! on Broadway. I love putting a dab of the Peppermint oil behind my ears before the show to relax and focus me!
What advice can you give to aspiring performers?
Be kind, work hard, be smart, and have faith in what you bring to the table. And remember, as cliche as it sounds, it's possible :)
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Always be grateful for the present moment.
Finish this sentence.. Ashley Park is...
A Cancer survivor, obsessed with macarons, and a graduate of the University of Michigan. Go Blue!