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The Friday 5(+1): Cumberland County Playhouse's RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Opens Tonight

Harli Cooper, Brian Nabors and Toby Davis On Why You Should See Their Show

The Friday 5(+1): Cumberland County Playhouse's RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Opens Tonight
Harli Cooper and Brian Nabors

Beginning tonight and continuing through August 21, Cumberland County Playhouse will present Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella on its mainstage in Crossville.

"We've waited for two years to present this wonderful musical," said CCP artistic director Britt Hancock, who directs this production, "It's going to be an absolutely beautiful production that will delight all members of the family."

Ahead of opening night, three cast members - Harli Cooper, Brian Nabors and Toby Davis - take on our Friday 5(+1) questions, hopefully to entice you to join them for a performance.

Harli Cooper (she, her, hers) plays Ella. She is a Louisville, Kentucky, native who has spent many years traveling to regional theaters across the country. She's performed in Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Georgia to name a few. She is so thankful to have been able to tell so many stories and share so many stages.

The Friday 5(+1): Cumberland County Playhouse's RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Opens Tonight What was your first live onstage taste of theater? In terms of the first thing I saw: My earliest memory of seeing a show in a way that inspired me was going to the high school play of a cousin. I believe it was Little Shop of Horrors. In terms of me on stage: I played Kate in Annie--The classic gateway musical for all young female performers.

What is your favorite preshow ritual? Besides Coffee? I always warm up vocally. I usually find an empty space and just take the time to get my voice warm. It's important for logistical reasons, but it's also my personal time to focus, breathe, and settle my brain into performance mode.

What's your most memorable the show must go on moment? I did Holiday Inn a few years back at a theatre in Clarksville, Indiana. The ensemble has a WORKOUT for that show. It's major dance number after major dance number, and quick changes in between them all. We were changing into corsets for the big Thanksgiving number and three of the girls had the zipper on their corset bust and could not go on stage. There was no time to communicate this to anyone. So, the three of us that still had a functioning costume had to run onstage in a full blackout and try to whisper as quickly as we could to the male ensemble that half of them would not have dance partners for the number. We all had a time trying to adapt choreography on the fly. But we did it. I hope to never have to do it again.

What is your dream role? I would absolutely love to do Dot in Sunday in the Park With George. It's a show that's so rarely done though, that I'm not quite sure if that one will ever get crossed off. My car performances of it are something though! But honestly, I feel like I become obsessed with shows and roles as they come along. I'll read an audition notice for something and all of a sudden, that's it, that's the one, I want to do it.

Who is your theatrical crush? My husband (CCP favorite Blake Graham)! Although he is currently "retired" from theatre, I still cherish every time I've seen him on stage or heard him sing. I didn't fall in love with him for his voice alone...but I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a major attraction factor.

Why should people come see CINDERELLA? Oh goodness. So many reasons. For those who don't know, it is a slightly spiffed up and "modernized" version of the classic tale. All of the songs and characters you know and love are still there, but there is a new strength and heart to the show that I feel builds on the classic. Every ensemble number has been beautifully done by our choreographer, Jensen Crain-Foster, and the storytelling by our cast is energetic and truthful. The Ball alone is worth the ticket price. And if the additional price of gas to get you here still has you hesitating - the costume design by Austin Blake Conlee is magic in and of itself. The costume crew has been putting in overtime with this one, but the sparkles and colors and transformation magics are going to be stunning.

The Friday 5(+1): Cumberland County Playhouse's RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Opens Tonight Brian Nabors (he, him, his) plays Prince Topher. Brian is a Maryland native who has been doing theatre his whole life! Since graduating from James Madison University with a BA in Musical Theatre, he has spent the past four years traveling the country and performing at various theaters. He was most recently seen at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, TN where he originated the role of Joe in May We All. He is dummy hype to be making his CCP debut in Cinderella alongside such a talented cast and crew!

What was your first taste of "live, onstage" theater? My first taste of theatre was seeing The Wizard of Oz at a local dinner theatre when I was seven. I was terrified of the witch but then a few short months later I was playing the Scarecrow in a junior production!

What's your favorite pre-show ritual? My pre show ritual is to stretch, warmup, drink tea, read some of whatever book I'm currently reading, and do the NYT crossword puzzle!

What's your most memorable the show must go on moment? My pants have fallen down several times on stage. I have also tripped and slipped more times than I can count. Just gotta keep going!!!

What is your dream role? My dream role is either George in Sunday in the Park or Bobby in Company. I'm a huge Sondheim fan.

Who is your theatrical crush? My theatrical crush is Shoshana Bean one hundred percent. An absolute powerhouse in every regard.

Why should people come see CINDERELLA? People should come see Cinderella because it's magical! Harli Cooper is absolutely the perfect Cinderella and I think everyone needs to come see her shine on stage. The costumes are unbelievable. The set looks amazing. The choreography is a blast. Everyone in the cast truly works together so well to bring this story to life.

The Friday 5(+1): Cumberland County Playhouse's RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Opens Tonight Toby Davis (he, him, his) plays Jean-Michel

What was your first live onstage taste of theater? My first time seeing live theatre was when I was around eight years old my family and I went to a theatre called Sight and Sound in Pennsylvania and it was absolutely a transformative experience. My first experience doing theatre was in a little community show called Fiona's Gift and I was hooked ever since then.

What is your favorite preshow ritual? I don't know if I have any ritual follow religiously but warming up my voice and pulling an affirmation card is something I've been doing a lot recently.

What's your most memorable the show must go on moment? I was in a production of Hamlet where one of my cast members didn't come out for their cue and I had to improvise some lines to fill the Shakespeare was stressful.

What is your dream role? Right now probably Constantine in The Seagull or Tony in West Side Story.

Who is your theatrical crush? Ohhhh, that's hard! Probably Renee Rapp she is very talented.

Why should people come see CINDERELLA? It's such a wonderful company of actors telling a beautiful story. There's comedy and heart and you are going to have a full experience when walking out of the theatre. And there's some changes and added elements to the story that make it fresh and keep you on your toes.

ABOUT RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA With its fresh new take on the beloved tale of a young woman who is transformed from a chambermaid into a princess, the hilarious and romantic Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella combines the story's classic elements - the glass slippers, the pumpkin, and the prince's ball - along with some surprising twists.

More than just a pretty face with the right shoe size, this Cinderella (Harli Cooper, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) is a contemporary figure living in a fairytale setting. She is a spirited young woman with savvy and soul who doesn't let her rags or her gowns trip her up in her quest for kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. She longs to escape the drudgery of her work at home and instead works to make the world a better place. She not only fights for her own dreams, but inspires the prince (Playhouse newcomer Brian Nabors) to open his eyes to the world around him and realize his dreams, too.

Also featured in the cast are Michael Ruff as Lord Pinkleton, Jason Ross as Sebastian, Lauren Marshall as Marie, Toby Davis as Jean-Michel, Weslie Webster as Madame, Heather McCall as Gabrielle, DeAnna Helgeson as Charlotte, Riley Wesson as the Footman, and Christopher Alvarado as the Coachman. Rounding out this multi-talented cast are ensemble members Jacob Alexander, Kelsey Brodeur, Cameron Collins, Kyra Crosby, Taylor Dearman, Cora Hassberger, Briana Hernandez, Delaney Jackson, David Kappel, David Perry, Caitlin Schaub and James Scott.

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, an original book by Oscar Hammerstein II and a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, which blends masterfully with the musical's score and includes songs like "In My Own Little Corner," "Impossible/It's Possible," "Ten Minutes Ago" and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?".

Cinderella plays on the Mainstage through August 21, is rated G, and is sponsored by Plateau Pediatrics. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the Playhouse Box Office at (931) 484-5000.

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From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis