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NUNN ON ONE: THEATER Corbin Williams adds dimension to 'Cinderella'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

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Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella stops in Chicago on its national tour on April 27.

This Tony-winning Broadway musical from the creators of such classics as The Sound of Music and South Pacific is destined to delight audiences for new generations. Doesn't everyone want a fairy godmother to help out when times get tough?

Corbin Williams joins this national tour as Jean-Michel, bringing experience from a successful tour of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He has previously performed in Catch Me If You Can, Next to Normal, Hairspray and Shrek.

Windy City Times: I read you're from Tennessee.

Corbin Williams: Yes, I am from Nashville, Tennessee.

WCT: I grew up there and my first job was at Opryland.

CW: I actually began performing at Opryland. That is what inspired me to perform. I used to go there as a kid and watch the theme park shows. I always wanted to play on the Opryland Kids Club set. That is what got me interested. It looked like so much fun. A Country Christmas there was my first big show.

WCT: It was a sad day when they tore that place down.

CW: It was tragic for me, too. Like I said, I envied the Kids Club. When I turned 13 and could finally audition was the year they tore down the whole park!

WCT: How did you get this role in Cinderella?

CW: I moved to New York City in January and auditioned for the casting director for Mama Mia. I didn't book that tour, but they called me back in for Cinderella. Through a series of call backs I was offered the part of Jean-Michel. I have been with the show ever since.

WCT: Talk about this character, Jean-Michel.

CW: My character was added for the Broadway production. He is good friends with Cinderella. He ends up falling in love with her stepsister, Gabrielle.

Most importantly he notices there is some injustice in the kingdom. He takes it upon himself to call out the leaders in charge. He leads a revolution to get the people to stand up for themselves.

WCT: Is this similar to the New York production?

CW: This is the Broadway production that opened in 2013. It has all the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein that was in the original Julie Andrews television movie. It then became the Lesley Ann Warren, and Brandy versions later.

Douglas Carter Beane wrote a completely new book for it. He added my character as well as a few other characters. Some other Rodgers and Hammerstein's songs were also added. The songs had either been cut from other shows or had been originally cut from Cinderella.

They expanded it and made it a full two and a half hour musical.

WCT: Sounds like a long show.

CW: It is about two hours, with a 15-minute intermission. They tried to make it shorter so families can come and children won't fall asleep.

WCT: Do you have a favorite song from Cinderella?

CW: I love my song "Now Is the Time." It was actually cut from South Pacific and they put it back in the show.

I really like what they did with my song. It is juxtaposed right next to the prince giving a ball, so I am singing now is the time to act and stand up for ourselves to the people in the town square. Lord Pinkleton, who is the town crier, is there announcing that the prince is giving a ball. This is to create a distraction so people don't listen to me for the injustice that is going on in the kingdom. It's swept up in this whole facade.

WCT: Do you like the traveling involved with touring?

CW: Yes. I have seen some incredible places that I wouldn't have been able to go to on my own. We opened the show in Anchorage, Alaska. It was a pretty surreal experience. We saw the northern lights.

The most fascinating thing about traveling is seeing the way this show effects different people. We are touring for a whole year. We get to go to some remote places in the world that I didn't know existed. The audiences are so receptive to the message of the show. They jump to their feet immediately when the curtain call starts.

WCT: Is there any gay content in the show?

CW: No; there's not any direct gay character written in the script, but I am sure there are some in the kingdom. It's a large kingdom that represents the world!

WCT: I'm sure there are lots of gay cast and crew.

CW: Absolutely.

WCT: You played in Hairspray?

CW: I did Hairspray at Little Theatre on the Square, which is about three hours south of Chicago. It was fun to be in that production. Throughout that summer I worked with many people from Chicago so I am excited they can come see me in this production.

WCT: What has been your favorite show to be in?

CW: Cinderella is really a dream come true for me. When I first moved to New York City, my goal was to book a national tour. This is the biggest thing I have done in my career. It is so exciting to travel and perform at these massive houses that I have been to as a child or seen a lot of pictures of. Playing the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago is going to be so thrilling!

Cinderella runs out of town May 6; visit .

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