2013 Tony Award Winning Cinderella on its Way to Houston

It was opening night in Chicago on the national tour of Rodgers + Hammerstein's 2013 Tony Award-winning Cinderella and the then- leading lady wasn't feeling well.

“She was going to try to power through,” says then- understudy Audrey Cardwell, but several minutes into the musical, realized she wasn't going to make it. Backstage, Cardwell was hustled out of her ensemble outfit and into the Cinderella costume and took over the role for the remainder of that night's show.

Cardwell, now officially cast as the title character for the Cinderella tour, is on her way back to Houston (she was last seen here in The Little Mermaid last year) with the rest of the actors and dancers ready to present an updated version of the classic story of the young woman who finds romance and a way out of a life of drudgery with the help of a glass slipper and a fairy godmother — courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.

“This show is really about kindness,” says Cardwell, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and got her BFA from Penn State. “The Prince Topher (Andy Huntington Jones) and Cinderella helping each other becoming their best selves through being good people and being nice. The power of kindness.”

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Also in this version, the two stepsisters remain, but one is a bit nicer than the other, Cardwell says. “One of them is a little harsher than the other, more of the stereotypical evil step-sister. The other one, Gabrielle, she and Ella are really similar.”

And while the costumes are great, including the ball gown that Cinderella gets to wear, Cardwell says: “It's not about the dress. It's about what's happening on the inside.”

In addition to the lasting crowd pleasers: “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It's Possible,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I love You Because You're Beautiful?” the score has been amended to include songs discarded from other Rodgers + Hammerstein shows such as South Pacific, Cardwell says.

Performances are scheduled May 26 - June 7. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center. 800 Bagby. Call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com. $44.50 - $139.

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