The timeless fairy tale “Cinderella” is well known, but the latest Quad City Music Guild production — opening Friday night — is a new twist on the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

“Cinderella” was their only musical originally composed for TV, which debuted in 1957, starring Julie Andrews. It was the most widely viewed program in the history of the medium at that time.

Based upon the classic fairy tale, and particularly the French version “Cendrillon ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s adaptation brings new life to the story of a young woman (Ella) forced into servitude who dreams of – and achieves – a better life. “Cinderella” features some of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most beloved songs, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “impossible,” and “Ten Minutes Ago.”

“Cinderella” features Maddie Baez, left, Marissa Elliot, Linda McGraw, and Hannah Wiyrick..

Music Guild last did it just in 2011 and the new production is a revised version of the show, which made its Broadway debut in 2013, and was transformed into a major motion picture by Disney in 2015. The Broadway production originally starred Laura Osnes in the title role and Santino Fontana as the Prince and ran for 770 performances.

“It’s a very beautiful score,” veteran Guild director Harold Truitt said Wednesday, noting one major story change is that there’s no king and queen now. They are not missed, he said. “They just sat as royalty.”

The score added a handful of other Rodgers & Hammerstein songs.

In Douglas Carter Beane‘s version of the story, Cinderella opens Prince Topher’s eyes to the injustice in the kingdom. The Prince’s parents have died, leaving the kingdom in the hands of a villainous prime minister, who has been the Prince’s mentor and has duped his young charge into approving oppressive legislation.

Hannah Wiyrick, left, and Katherine Zerull in “Cinderella.”

The rebel Jean-Michel, a new character, and stepsister Gabrielle are in love, and the two seek to overthrow the government. The score includes the best-known songs from the original version and features four songs from the R & H catalog, including “Now Is the Time,” cut from South Pacific.

Young stars make Guild debuts

The performers of the Prince and Cinderella here are making their Guild debuts.

Nickie Dean Callender, 19, plays the Prince. He’s a Rock Island native who graduated from Moline High School, and now majors in vocal music education and opera performance at Illinois State University.

Marissa Elliot, left, Maddie Baez, and Linda McGraw in “Cinderella.”

In the past 14 months, he performed in two versions of “Newsies,” with Double Threat Studios and Countryside Community Theatre. At Moline, he was due to star in the Elvis role in “All Shook Up,” but got only one performance in (March 2020), before COVID shutdowns. Callender also did a lot of Center for Living Arts shows.

Callender jumped at the chance to do “Cinderella.” “I love the music and I wanted to sing the part,” he said.

Hannah Wiyrick as Cinderella and Nickie Dean Callender as Prince Topher.

Cinderella is played by 20-year-old Hannah Wiyrick, a Geneseo High grad who’s a rising junior at Augustana College, where she’s also majoring in music education. She performed in this year’s “Threepenny Opera” at Augie, and was in “Little Mermaid” and “Fiddler on the Roof” in high school.

In 2020, her senior year, Geneseo actually was supposed to do “Cinderella,” but due to COVID, they couldn’t even start rehearsals, Wiyrick said, noting she was cast as the queen.

“COVID ruined a lot of theater for sure,” Truitt (who is also scenic designer) said.

“I love the transformation, from rags to the ball gown,” she said of Cinderella, which happens quickly on stage. Truitt didn’t reveal any secrets on how that is done, crediting Cindy Monroe as costume designer.

“Cinderella is one of my favorite Disney princesses,” Wiyrick said. It’s also satisfying to do a new version of a classic that most people haven’t seen before, she said.

Several newcomers in cast

The 36-person Guild cast includes Linda McGraw as Madame / Stepmother; Maddie Baez as Charlotte; Marissa Elliot as Gabrielle, Katherine Zerull as Marie/Fairy Godmother, Sam Whan as Lord Pinkleton, and Gregory Graff as Sebastian.

Sam Whan, left, Gregory Graff, and Nickie Dean Callendar.

“This production, we have quite a few newcomers,” Truitt said. “I like having new people involved, to get them involve in Music Guild. It’s a thrill to have the talent come through. I’ve done that for many of my shows.”

At Guild, Truitt last directed the classic “A Chorus Line,” in 2018.

Of his “Cinderella” leads, the director said, “These two are a thrill to work with. They have the stamina and they also have the voice. We went for voice as well as looks, and I think we got it.”

“The cast is phenomenal — when they get full voice, it’s fantastic, with four-part harmony, and six parts at times,” Truitt said. “There is a soprano in the show, one of the stepsisters, that blows the roof off the building. It’s just amazing. I’m thrilled it came through.”

Callender is tall (about 6 feet), which helps him become the dashing Prince, while Wiyrick is 5-foot-2. He even gets to ride a horse in the show (built by Truitt, on wheels).

Nickie Dean Callender atop the show horse, Buttercup, built by director Harold Truitt (photo by Jonathan Turner).

There are new fox and raccoon puppet characters in the show. “They’re just charming; the kids will love them,” Truitt said.

Fifty-year Music Guild veteran Bill Marsoun again painted the forest backdrops. “Thank you, Bill, for sharing your painting skills to the magic of Cinderella and Guild all these years,” the program says.

They also thank John Weigandt for engineering the two carriage horses for Cinderella’s coach. “It certainly is a marvel how grand they look,” the program says.

The stage backdrops were painted by 50-year Music Guild veteran Bill Marsoun (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Cinderella” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. July 8. 9, 14, 15 and 16, plus 2 p.m. July 10 and 17 at Prospect Park Theater, 1584 34th Ave., Moline. Tickets are $16 for adults and $11 for children 12 and under, available by calling 309-762-6610 or by visiting the QCMG website.