What if Cinderella lived in the desert and the grand ball was actually a rodeo hosted by the county's most eligible bachelor, son of a cattle ranching scion?
That's how Tucson author Susan Lowell reimagines the famous fairy tale in "Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella," her popular kids book that will take center stage in Tucson Symphony Orchestra's Family Series on Saturday, April 30.
TSO assistant principal violist Ilona Vukovic-Gay composed the music to go with the story, which recasts Cinderella as one of the best cowgirls around until her evil stepmother and stepsisters make her do their dirty ranch work from sun up to sun down. Her Fairy Godmother steps in to make sure Cinderella makes it to the rodeo, where she snags first place and the prince's heartstrings. And in the process, she loses a diamond spur.
You should be thinking glass slipper at this point and you can pretty well see where this is heading.
Other music featured in the performance includes Danny Elfman's main title from "Spiderman," Vaughan Williams’ Overture to "The Wasps," “The Thunderer” by John Philip Sousa, Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” Rachmaninoff’s "Vocalise" and the sing-along, “Wheels on the Bus.”
Michael Hall, a favorite TSO guest conductor, will lead a group of string players and one horn player who take on character roles in the performance.
• Violinist Joseph Rousos-Hammond will play Joe Prince. He'll be the one playing love-struck harmonica tunes in addition to his violin.
• TSO principal cellist Anne Gratz is Cindy Ellen.
• Horn player Victor Valenzuela and violinist David Rife are the wicked stepsisters. (I have it on good information that they are hilarious.)
Performances are at 2 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Leo Rich Theater, 260 S. Church Ave. There will be an instrument “petting zoo” on the plaza outside the theater from 2:30 to 4 p.m., hosted by the Civic Orchestra of Tucson.
Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for children under 18 at tucsonsymphony.org, or at the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Box Office, 2175 N. Sixth Ave.
"Cindy Ellen" is the eighth orchestral work that Vukovic-Gay has composed based on Lowell's stories. In addition to playing with the orchestra, Vukovic-Gay instructs in the orchestra's critically acclaimed Young Composers Project.
“It was a lot of fun to write for the ugly stepmother and the stepsisters,” Vukovic-Gay said in a press release. “Their characters are portrayed by unusual combinations of instruments. The ‘snaky stepmother’ is played by the oboe and has a harmonic minor melody much like a snake charmer. The two stepsisters manage to get into situations they can’t handle such as trying to ride a bucking bronco when neither one can actually ride at all! Their music has many leaps and crashes as they bite the dust!”