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April 24, 2024

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10 Questions with Nashville Children’s Theatre about ‘Hip Hop Cinderella’

A chat with Executive Director Ernie Nolan about the futuristic reimagining of the classic tale.

Who needs a glass slipper when you have a stellar sneaker? Nashville Children’s Theatre celebrates 50 years of Hip-Hop with their newest production, Hip Hop Cinderella, running April 13 through May 21.

Our Team - Nashville Children's Theatre

Executive Director of Nashville Children’s Theatre, Ernie Nolan.

In this futuristic retelling of a classic tale, the prince is throwing a Hip-Hop Ball and Rap Competition to bring energy back into the galaxy, and “Ella C” is a fierce contender. When she loses her stellar sneaker at the Ball, it sends the prince on a quest throughout the stars.

Nashville Parent caught up with Nashville Children’s Theatre Executive Director (and the show’s director), Ernie Nolan, to get the scoop on the new production.

Q: Everybody knows the classic tale. How does this version pay homage to the original beloved story? 

A: Hip Hop Cinderella is like an amazing remix of a song. While there are new surprises in store, the familiar melody is there. Many parts of the classic story are there — stepmother, stepsisters, prince, ball — but it’s all in outer space!

Q: How has the story been adapted into a modern version for younger audiences?

A: Unlike other versions, this one is all about Cinderella finding and believing in her own voice. While helped by her robot creation “Runka,” she doesn’t need a prince to find herself and have a happy ending. She creates her own!

Q: What part of this show are you most excited for kids and families to see?

A: In addition to hearing this fresh and inventive score from Rona Sidiiqui, this production is going to showcase projections and use technology in ways we haven’t yet at NCT. We also have an acclaimed guest choreographer, Dominic Moore-Dunson, who’s choreography is sure to delight!

Q: What about this story do you think audiences will connect most with?

A: I think audiences will really identify with Ella’s journey. Everyone, young and old, has listened to the voices in their head that stop them from doing something. Where as other Cinderellas feel passive, this is a leading lady who is read y to chart her own course in the universe.

Q: What role does the music play?

A: Rona’s score is an entire character in and of itself. It gives the show a pulse and a beat that feels both funky and futuristic.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the creative process?

A : The design of the production has been really inspired by Afro-Futurism, but also traditional fairy tale attire. The team has created an aesthetic that is very original; imagine Madonna’s 1990 MTV Vogue performance, meets Wakanda Forever, meets Beyonce.

Q: What’s the funnest and hardest part about revamping classic stories with fresh takes?

A: It’s about delivering surprise. It’s delivering something everyone knows, but having them feel like they’ve never seen it before. It’s about finding growth in characters that traditionally haven’t had any.

Q: What do you hope families will be talking about on the way home?

A: In addition to the “how did they do that?” discussion, I hope families talk about not only Ella’s character journey, but also about the sense of community at the end of the play. Character’s past wrongs are forgiven … and I think that will send a powerful message to the audience.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for kids to experience live theater?

A: There’s something very special about experiencing a play with an audience as a community. In addition to experiencing the arts, gathering to share something I think is a really powerful thing for young people to be a part of.

Doors to Hip Hop Cinderella open at 5:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, April 13 at the Nashville Children’s Theatre (NCT). The show starts at 6:30 p.m. CT.

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About the Author

Michael Aldrich

Michael Aldrich is Nashville Parent's Managing Editor and a Middle Tennessee arts writer. He and his wife, Alison, are the proud parents of 4-year-old Ezra and baby Norah.