In her 30-year career as a choral director and music teacher, Ann Espel never had the chance to direct her favorite musical, until now. She and her cast, crew and pit orchestra open tonight with Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Schaumburg High School. Shows continue at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Photos courtesy of Schaumburg High School

“Our production is the 2013 Broadway version of Cinderella,” says Espel, who is retiring this year. “It preserves the beautiful songs and original story from the 1964 movie with some new characters and surprising twists.”

Espel has served as the choir director and AP music theory teacher at Schaumburg for the last 10 years and before that she taught at Maine South High School in Park Ridge and at Jacobs High School in Algonquin. She also served as music director for the acclaimed Harper Festival Chorus.

In all, she figures she has directed the pit or vocals in 30 musicals over the years, but directing Cinderella has always been her favorite, dating back to the 1964 version starring Leslie Ann Warren. Some of her students, however, were a bit skeptical.

Ava Ramirez stars as Ella (Cinderella).

“Until we went to see Drury Lane’s production in January,” Espel says. “After that, we had complete buy-in.”

There is an underlying theme of kindness in this updated version, she says, especially, to those who are less fortunate, as the show explores the differences between the people of the kingdom and the nobility.

“Cinderella is not just a starry-eyed woman in love with a handsome prince,” Espel says. “The fairy godmother encourages her to be brave and stand up for what she believes in, particularly through the song, There Is Music in You, which is a powerful ballad from the 2013 version.”

Principals include:

Ava Ramirez – Ella (Cinderella)
Zach Kaspari – Prince Topher
Leah Robin – Madame (Stepmother)
Molly Gruenwald – Gabrielle (Stepsister)
Nic Dragomirov – Charlotte (Stepsister)
Karina DeLaRosa – Marie (Fairy Godmother)
Michael Kier – Sebastian (Lord Protector)
Nicholas Wagner – Lord Pinkleton
“The students have really embraced their characters from the leads to the ensemble members,” Espel says. “It’s so rewarding to watch students grow through the rehearsal process.”
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