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Headley, Mauzey, Benson Lead Starry Lineup for CINDERELLA, 5/14

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Headley, Mauzey, Benson Lead Starry Lineup for CINDERELLA, 5/14

Heather Headley, Alli Mauzey, Jodi Benson and Anthony Federov headline a star-studded concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, set for Friday, May 14, at Nashville's Schermerhorn Symphony Center. They will be joined by a cast of Nashville theatre luminaries - and featuring BeBe Winans and Nashville native Jake Speck, currently on Broadway in Jersey Boys - Cinderella is the spring celebration of the locally based showHOPE organization, which hopes to bring both attention and awareness to its efforts across the globe.

Founded by noted Christian music entertainer/producer Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth Chapman, showHOPE is a worldwide ministry that "mobilizes individuals and communities to care for orphans and provide waiting children with families by giving grants to those adopting."

"We're helping to bring awareness and attention to orphan care across the globe with this production," explained Matt Logan, director and production designer of Cinderella. "We wanted to do something unique and different."

Tony Award- and Grammy Award-winner Headley (The Lion King, Aida) will play the role of the Fairy Godmother in the Nashville production, with Tony nominee Mauzey (Cry-Baby), starring in the title role. Benson, who first came to national attention as the voice of Disney's The Little Mermaid on film, was a Tony nominee for Crazy for You, and will play the role of The Queen.

Federov, a fourth season finalist on American Idol, has appeared off-Broadway in The Fantasticks, and will sing the role of Prince Christopher at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Speck, who first gained local notice for performances at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre before going on to New York City where he now is a member of the Jersey Boys company, will play Lionel. And Grammy Award-winning gospel singer BeBe Winans will play The King.

Among Nashville actors performing in Cinderella are Nan Gurley as The Stepmother, with Carolyn German and Bonnie Keen as the Stepsisters, along with Chip Arnold, Shelean Newman and others.

The Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra will provide the musical accompaniment for the production, which is being designed by Logan and which, he promises, will include some surprising and innovative touches to capture the "magic" of Cinderella for audiences.

Logan says that for several years now, the Chapmans have dreamed of putting together a major entertainment event for Nashville, in order to give back to the supportive community while celebrating and illuminating the mission of showHOPE, their adoption and orphan care organization.

According to Logan, his initial suggestion was to stage in Music City USA a production modeled on similar productions he'd worked on in New York - including the Actors' Fund benefit of On The 20th Century, starring Marin Mazzie, in which he was actively involved. His idea was to include Broadway stars, to give the event a higher profile, while drawing upon the tremendous pool of talent in Nashville.

"Working on the production of similar events in New York gave me the opportunity to learn the inside story of how these productions are created," Logan explained.

The selection of Cinderella as the first showHOPE spring celebration is an appropriate choice, he explains, given the relevance of the plotline (Cinderella is, after all, an orphan) and the Chapman family's affection for the TV adaptation of the musical that starred pop music's Brandi and Whitney Houston and a host of Broadway stars.

Even more compelling is the fact that one of Steven Curtis Chapman's best-known songs is also called "Cinderella" (from his 2008 project, This Moment), which was inspired by his two youngest daughters, Stevey Joy and Maria Sue, both of whom were adopted from China. With Maria's tragic death in May, 2008, the story of both the song and the musical of Cinderella makes the event, as well as the work of showHOPE, more poignant than ever.

The Chapmans see the May 14 event as the perfect way to honor the life of Maria (whose birthday was May 13), while also celebrating the mission of their organization that exists to help orphaned children around the world. In addition to providing grants to parents hoping adopt children (in 2009, the organization celebrated its 2000th financial grant, affecting the lives of children from 41 different countries and the United States), showHOPE is also the catalyst behind the building of Maria's Big House of Hope, a six-story facility located in Luoyang, China, which provides surgeries and medical care for special needs orphans in that country.

Ticket prices ranged from $30 to $130 and are available at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center box office, online at www.nashvillesymphony.org or by calling (615) 687-6400.

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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