Spring Musical Q&A: An Interview with the Director of "Cinderella"

Spring Musical Q&A: An Interview with the Director of "Cinderella"

PHOTO: Elizabeth Goranson as Ella and Justin Nieves as Topher rehearse their roles in the 2018 EPHS Spring Musical, "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella." Click here for more photos from a recent rehearsal.


The 2018 EPHS Spring Musical, "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella," will be performed March 9-11 in the school auditorium under the direction of Mr. Noah Pligge (director and choreographer), Mr. Michael Popplewell (vocal music director) and Mr. Kyle Rhoades (pit orchestra director). 

Tickets are $5, with free admission for students, staff and senior citizens. Showtimes will be: 

► 7 p.m. Friday, March 9
► 7 p.m. Saturday, March 10
► 2 p.m. Sunday, March 11

On opening night, the EPHS Art Department will hold an art show featuring student work on display, a student-created coloring book for sale and a slideshow with videos playing during intermission.

With music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, "Cinderella" is a retelling of the classic fairy tale. The original version aired as a television broadcast in 1957. It was remade twice for TV and adapted for the stage several times. The EPHS production will use the new book by Douglas Carter Beane, which debuted on Broadway in 2013.


Students rehearse "Cinderella," the 2018 EPHS Spring Musical.

PHOTO: The cast of this year's spring musical includes a number of students from Elm Middle School. Welcome, Cougars! District 401 photo by Dave Porreca (click image for larger view).


A Cast Fit for a Classic


Fresh from her "Day by Day" solo in EPHS's 2017 Fall Musical, "Godspell," sophomore Elizabeth Goranson will play the title role of Ella (Cinderella). Senior Justin Nieves, who delighted audiences as Gomez in last spring's musical, "The Addams Family," will put his talents to work as Topher, prince of the realm.

"Elizabeth Goranson’s portrayal of Cinderella is one that I am most looking forward to sharing with an audience," said Mr. Pligge. "She is young but gives me such hope for the future of this program. She has taken this part with such grace, and she constantly improves and takes direction."

In all, the show will feature the contributions of more than 100 students, including a substantial number from Elm Middle School. Scroll down this page to see a full listing of cast, crew and pit.

"I do have to say that the talent of the middle school students has impressed me beyond belief!" Mr. Pligge noted. "They have grown enormously since their audition and are really looking up to all the high schoolers and fitting right in."

To learn more about the EPHS production, check out the entirety of our Q&A with Mr. Pligge below.

For additional coverage, click here for a gallery of photos from a recent rehearsal.


Noah Pligge directs a rehearsal of "Cinderella"

PHOTO: Noah Pligge directs a rehearsal of the EPHS 2018 Spring Musical, "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella." District 401 photo by Dave Porreca (click image for larger view).


Questions & Answers with Director Noah Pligge


The following is an edited version of an interview conducted via email between Mr. Pligge and District 401's web/media specialist, Mr. Dave Porreca.


Q: Why "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" for the spring musical?


A: The team went back and forth with many different options, but we finally agreed to take a leap with "Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella." Last spring's musical, "The Addams Family," was somewhat of a modern musical, and we wanted to take a step away from modern and turn back to the classics.

The new version of "Cinderella" we are doing takes all the greatness of a classic musical and molds it with the new modern musical arrangements and script. Plus, there are a great number of featured roles for the students to take on. It has the right amount of singing and dancing, and it has a great score for the pit. The technical aspects are challenging but our crew has done a great job.


Q: What particular challenges does "Cinderella" pose for your cast, crew and musicians?


A:  Every person has his or her own idea of what Cinderella (the character and the show in general) should look and sound like. It has been challenging to get the image of what everyone is expecting to see and to mold it into our own. The music is difficult for all musicians involved. The hardest part for the cast is knowing when every transition music happens and how long there is to get the transition finished. But the most difficult part for us all will be putting it all together.


Q: There are a number of middle school students in the cast. Is that unusual? How did you get them involved?


A: It is unusual to have this amount of middle school students in the cast. These students are the ones who are going to be leading the program in a few years, and I think it is always great to get them involved as soon as possible. It is also very important to get them exposed to social and emotional aspects of the high school scene and life in general before they are just thrown into the school with minimal preparation on those steps.

Getting them involved in something like this early on definitely gives them a head start. Some of our leads this year have been involved in EPHS theater since they themselves were in middle school (they have grown into wonderful young adults and students), and I knew it would be a great idea to bring some along this year for the ride. Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Rhoades did a great job recruiting their band/choir kids to see if there were any of them who were interested. I also made sure Ms. Yager [Danielle Yager, Elm secretary, head coach of the Elm pom squad — and Mr. Pligge's mother] plugged the show at her pom-pon practices. I didn’t expect there to be so many! It has been a blast working with such fun middle schoolers!


Q: When did rehearsals begin?


A: Rehearsal began the week before holiday break. We were able to do a full read-through of the show as well as block/stage the majority of the scenes. When we returned, they all got started on vocals with Mr. Popplewell before some of us headed down to state for the Illinois High School Theatre Festival. There have been a lot of gaps and days without rehearsals this season, but all in all we will have rehearsed for about seven full weeks before the show goes up.


Q: The show dates seem a little earlier than usual. Is that true? If so, has that posed any difficulties for you and the students?


A: The dates are earlier this year. I have slowly been trying to change the performance dates of the shows each year to keep them away from midterms and finals. Also, I would love to squeeze in one more show at the end of the year to give the school another chance to showcase the talent that comes through EPHS, but I don’t know if that will ever happen.

The show dates being earlier has definitely challenged the kids on a level of commitment and responsibility. Many of the students in the show have been or are varsity athletes or involved in band/choir. There are also handfuls that stay active in the clubs that are offered at school and even hold leadership positions in them! This difficulty has led the students to take more pride in everything they do and to do it with class.

Due to the nature of their schedules, they have had multiple long rehearsals and have had to even learn some of the choreography in only one day of rehearsal. Not many people understand or ever see how hard the students work to cram every aspect of the show in such a short amount of time. Not only do I teach them the specific things for the show in our limited time, but I also try to give them tools they can use in life — i.e., public speaking, working as a unit and personal responsibility. The limited time has posed a challenge, but they have done a great job taking on that challenge.


Q: How have rehearsals gone so far?


A: Rehearsals have been demanding but rewarding. It is always challenging putting on a mainstage high school show. There are a lot of things that go into the show. Being able to have every student there at once has been the biggest challenge, but we have wonderful students who help catch each other up. For me personally, it has been difficult being the director and choreographer. I have had trouble balancing the two roles. There are times where I am focused on the choreography that I forget about the big picture and vice versa. 

A huge difficulty for me for this show in particular is that the piano score is hard, and I have not been able to play very well during rehearsals. But the kids take great pride in learning their parts during vocal rehearsals and practicing with the recording while we are dancing. We had a very stellar rehearsal on Presidents' Day where we were able to get through the entire show, and the students finally grasped the show as a whole, which is extremely important at this stage in the game.

When the students get frustrated during rehearsals I often remind them that rehearsals are here for them to work through every single problem and figure out how to solve them for the show. Then I share with them a philosophy of one of my past directors. "We have rehearsal for this exact reason, or else we would just have a 'hearsal' and perform the show."


Q: What performances by your cast have impressed you so far? What do you think some of the highlights of the show will be?


A: I do have to say that the talent of the middle school students has impressed me beyond belief! They have grown enormously since their audition and are really looking up to all the high schoolers and fitting right in. The ensemble/chorus has impressed me when they are in their scenes. There aren’t many big group scenes, but when they are on stage I have trouble keeping my eye on just one student because they are all in it to win it.

I think one of the highlights will be the waltz number at the end of Act I. This is my first time choreographing such a long and semi-technical dance number. The students involved took my choreography and ran with it. It is by far one of my favorite moments in my tenure here at EPHS.

Elizabeth Goranson’s portrayal of Cinderella is one that I am most looking forward to sharing with an audience. She is young but gives me such hope for the future of this program. She has taken this part with such grace, and she constantly improves and takes direction.

Ultimately, the biggest highlights will the seniors: Julia Furgal, Justin Nieves, Justin Eigenbauer, Michael Matos, Sarah Falsetti, Sarah Ihmoud, Val Lazu, Sofia Muñoz, Roneth Pineda, Jessica Carmona, Alex Martinez, and Jordan Muñoz. Each of them is featured in the show in one way or another, and it is very gratifying to watch them on this stage for the final time.

I can go on and on about each and every one of them, but if I only had to talk about a couple that would be highlights I would start off with Alex Martinez. This is his first official musical, and he steps in and performs like he has been doing this for years. Even though he is just in the ensemble, he has taken the stage by storm, and I am so proud of all he has done.

Julia Furgal graces us with such a unique and fascinating interpretation of crazy old Marie (The Fairy Godmother.) After working on the stage with her for four-plus years, hearing and watching her sing brings such joy to my heart, and I am sure the audience is going to enjoy every moment she is on stage.


Noah Pligge gives instructions to Elizabeth Goranson, who plays the title role of Ella in the EPHS spring musical.

PHOTO: During a recent rehearsal, director Noah Pligge gives instructions to sophomore Elizabeth Goranson, who plays the title role of Ella (Cinderella) in the 2018 EPHS Spring Musical. District 401 photo by Dave Porreca (click image for larger view).


"Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" Credits


Music by Richard Rodgers
► Lyrics & Original Book by Oscar Hammerstein II
► New Book by Douglas Carter Beane

► Director & Choreographer: Noah Pligge
Vocal Music Director: Michael Popplewell
Pit Orchestra Director: Kyle Rhoades
► Costume Designer: Susan Schultz
Set Designer & Crew Supervisor: Brittany Muszynski
Dance Captains: Juliet Howard, Sarah Ihmoud, Lexi Nieves, Roneth Pineda

► Cast: Please note that a number of students have multiple roles.

  • Ella: Elizabeth Goranson 
  • Topher: Justin Nieves 
  • Lord Pinkleton: Joe Klockenkemper 
  • Sebastian: Justin Eigenbauer 
  • Marie: Julia Furgal
  • Jean-Michel: Michael Matos
  • Madame: Sarah Falsetti
  • Gabrielle: Grace Rajendran
  • Charlotte: Jackie Vargas
  • Fox/Footman: Juliet Howard
  • Raccoon/Driver: Sarah Ihmoud
  • Woman in Window: Olivia Naber
  • Tall Woman: Val Lazu
  • Strong Woman: Sofia Muñoz
  • Small Woman: Roneth Pineda
  • Shy Woman: Nicole Domagala
  • Older Woman: Jessica Carmona
  • Younger Woman: Julianna Cervini
  • Knights: Emilio Barajas, Danny Butler, Uriel Delgado, Enrique Hernandez, Matt Hernandez, Mark Javier, Mark Klockenkemper, Alex Martinez, Jordan Muñoz, Angel Ponce, Victor Sandoval, Magnus Shipinski, Dounia Timejardine-Zomeño
  • Townspeople: Lucianna Afryl, Melanie Arroyo, Elizabeth Barajas, Emilio Barajas, Stephanie Beltram, Danny Butler, Jessica Carmona, Julianna Cervini, Uriel Delgado, Michaela Didani, Nicole Domagala, Yasmine Garcia, Kaylie Gomez, Jade Guzman, Enrique Hernandez, Matt Hernandez, Sami Hickey, Mark Javier, Mark Klockenkemper, Val Lazu, Jordan Muñoz, Sofia Muñoz, Olivia Naber, Kyla Narayan, Lexi Nieves*, Hayley Pelletier, Roneth Pineda, Angel Ponce, Diana Rivero, Victor Sandoval, Elizabeth Schultz, Magnus Shipinski, Isabella Soto, Michelle Soto, Dounia Timejardine-Zomeño, Jocelyn Velazquez, Melody Velez​​
  • A Duchess: Jocelyn Velazquez
  • Older Woman: Jessica Carmona
  • A Lord: Alex Martinez
  • A Lady: Olivia Naber
  • A Guest: Jordan Muñoz
  • Another Guest: Angel Ponce
  • A Dignitary: Matt Hernandez
  • Yet Another Guest: Val Lazu
  • Waltz Partners: Val Lazu & Angel Ponce, Kyla Narayan & Jordan Muñoz, Nicole Domagala & Matt Hernandez, Sofia Muñoz & Michael Matos, Roneth Pineda & Alex Martinez, Lexi Nieves & Juliet Howard, Jessica Carmona & Sarah Ihmoud
  • Guests: Melanie Arroyo, Danny Butler, Julianna Cervini, Uriel Delgado, Michael Didani, Yasmine Garcia, Jade Guzman, Sami Hickey, Olivia Naber, Diana Rivero, Dounia Timejardine-Zomeño, Jocelyn Velazquez
  • First Lady: Sofia Muñoz
  • Second Lady: Val Lazu
  • Third Lady: Nicole Domagala
  • Fourth Lady: Roneth Pineda
  • Chorus: Melanie Arroyo, Jessica Carmona, Michaela Didani, Olivia Naber, Kyla Narayan, Lexi Nieves, Diana Rivero, Jocelyn Velazquez
  • Duke of Cavendish: Alex Martinez
  • Duke of Cheshire: Matt Hernandez
  • Yvonne: Sami Hickey
  • Sam: Matt Hernandez
  • Claud: Jordan Muñoz 
  • Official: Alex Martinez

► Crew: Ashley Adams, Airyella Balthazar, Justin Capule, Isabelle Cruz, Karolina Czerepko, Isaura Davila, Alexandra Domagala, Sarah Fox, Ilana Garnica, Kristian Guereca, Vincente Guereca, Kyara Lopez, Kevin McFadden, Matthew McFadden, Isabella Perez, Rosie Pontarelli, William Valiente, Clarissa Varela, Szymon Wiewiora, Emi Xhoxhi

► Pit Orchestra: Chalize Aguilar, Maddy Arroyo, Trevor Bylina, Sarai Camacho, Philip Chmielowiec, Sarah Coleman, Gabi DeLaGarza, Mia DeLaGarza, David Galicia, Claudia Galicia, Sara Gitner, Michelle Heredia, Jose Hernandez, Ashley Kerner, Edward Kerner, Nicole Kupinski, Sebastian Macias, Patrick Mendoza, Lauren Mendoza, Jocelyn Mendoza, Ynei Moon, Kamil Musial, Nathaly Ojeda-Tavel, Hannah Peterson, Allison Prosser, Danielle Roxas, Daniela Salgado, Leo Salinas, Natasha Striegel, Abdo Timejardine-Zomeno, Jesus Trujillo, Annika Venegas, Carolina Wozniczka


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