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Renaissance Woman: Erin J. Weinberger
Erin J. Weinberger does it all: studies Torah, surfs, massage therapy — and dances and sings in Cinderella at the Fisher.
Erin J. Weinberger’s family likes to tell people that she was destined to become a dancer. After all, she was born on the same day of the month, albeit some 80 years later, as the late film and stage dance icon Gene Kelly.
Like Kelly, Weinberger also sings and acts, and she soon will show her talents as a member of the ensemble of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which will be performed March 13-18 at the Fisher Theatre.
Also an understudy for two characters, Weinberger could be seen by Metro Detroiters in either role. She has prepared to portray Madame, the vain and tyrannical stepmother whose concern is for her two birth daughters, and Charlotte, a cruel stepsister who sometimes comes across as a bit of a clown.
“I started dancing when I was 2, and I never stopped,” says Weinberger, 23, about to make her first appearance on a Michigan stage. “I got into theater in middle school; and for high school, I started home school so I could perform professionally in my own town [Sarasota].”
After that, Weinberger went to school for two years for musical theater at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., before moving to New York City.
This musical version of Cinderella first was developed for television in 1957 and starred a young Julie Andrews. It was written to give the main character, Ella, a more active presence in her own fate and to portray the Prince as less ideal. While the storyline still has the pumpkin, glass slippers and beautiful ball, there are creative twists as Cinderella becomes a contemporary-style force in a fairy tale world.
Playwright Douglas Carter Beane says he went to the original source, Charles Perrault’s 1697 fairy tale, for inspiration. He found it a thinly veiled satire of French politics and picked up on the themes.
Since Richard Rodgers (who was Jewish) and Oscar Hammerstein (his father was Jewish but he was raised Episcopalian) had only written songs for a 90-minute television musical, Beane looked for more material through the duo’s song catalog to fill out the stage version. In addition to the numbers specifically written for the show — such as “In My Own Little Corner,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” — he included “Me, Who Am I?” cut from Me and Juliet and “There’s Music in You” from the film Main Street to Broadway.
“This production is extremely close to my heart because of how it spreads kindness and love throughout the audience, young and old,” Weinberger says of the Tony Award-winning musical launched for Broadway in 2013. “I love Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music.
“I feel like my voice [mezzo-soprano] is a little more classic musical theater instead of the more contemporary style so singing this music every single time brings me so much joy. My favorite song is ‘Loneliness of Evening,’ a song Prince Topher sings as Ella makes a small appearance in it; their singing it together is my favorite part of the show.”
Weinberger has joined a 10-month tour that makes for the fourth year the production is on the road. Her recent theater credits include Beauty and the Beast at the Fireside Theatre in Wisconsin and Guys and Dolls at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida.
When she was 15, Weinberger was cast as Chava in a production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Players Theatre in Sarasota.
“I attended a Jewish day school and had a bat mitzvah,” she says. “Whenever I go home, I love to have meetings with my rabbi to catch up and discuss the Talmud and the way that my life revolves and relates to Judaism.”
Weinberger, who attended the Broadway Dance Center Summer Professional Semester, has concentrated on her dance talents in productions for the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center; but her largest audience came on television through participation in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — this time as a stilts walker.
“A friend asked me if I wanted to be a stilts walker, and I said ‘yes,’” she explains. “I studied with Maria Kent at NYC Stilts, and I’ve stilted in many different venues.”
Strictly for fun, she calls herself a “beach girl,” the result of growing up in Sarasota. She enjoys an array of water sports, including kayaking and paddle boarding. Away from the water, she likes working out and cooking.
When Weinberger moved to New York, her mother suggested that she keep studying, and she chose to pursue a second career that also keeps her moving. Through instruction at the Cortiva Institute — Massage Therapy Schools, she is now fully licensed and geared up to earn her way by filling in the hours between theatrical placements.
That second career decision turned out to be a bonus for her own well-being and the well-being of her professional colleagues.
“I am able to make my own schedule because I have my own business,” explains Weinberger, whose boyfriend of four years is supportive of all her interests. “I have to take a break from massaging on tour, but it has changed how I am able to move my body. I certainly help people in the cast of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella with little things.”
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella runs March 13-18 at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. Tickets start at $35.
(313) 872-1000; broadwayindetroit.com.