Exactly one year since its premiere, Cindy & The Disco Ball returns to the same space that hosted it — the Garry Marshall Theatre in Burbank, CA. But this time, the time-travelling saga, which essentially drops a Cinderella-esque character named Cindy Fontaine (Saylor Bell Curda of Disney’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) smack dab in 1976, has even more going for it than did previously. The disco-dashing music (Rachael Lawrence), book/lyrics (Joseph Leo Bwarie and Lori Marshall), and cast have been expanded; not to mention, the lobby doubles as a museum displaying artifacts from the Seventies.
The 70s weren’t just about feathered hair, pastels, platform shoes, bellbottoms, the Bee Gees, and Happy Days. Like any decade before or since, they were also about self-discovery for any adolescent in their vulnerable formative years, none more harrowing than high school. Cindy, who has enough to navigate on her own at Pacific Palisades High, is also overwhelmed by family matters: Her stepsister is exploitive and, even worse, her father hasn’t returned from Vietnam. Piling on the problems is that her school district’s art department is on the chopping block due to county budgetary cuts. To remedy this, Cindy just needs some glitzy guidance from a guardian angel, the mystical Soul Sister, in order to raise awareness alongside her classmates, dance away the night, and set things right as the clock ticks down.
With Cindy & The Disco Ball now playing through Sunday, Oct. 29th, triple-threat performer Cloie Wyatt Taylor, an N.Y.U. Tisch graduate and currently featured in AMC Networks’ Partners in Rhyme, recently spoke with LAexcites about her role as the musical’s Soul Sister, the grooviest of fairy godmothers.
Compared to last year’s premiere, this rendition of Cindy & The Disco Ball is described as having an ‘expanded cast, additional songs and full production re-design.’ Can you elaborate on these apparent differences and regarding anything else SoCal audiences, who saw last year’s production, can expect this time around?
Taylor: I think this production of ‘Cindy’ picks up right where we left off — in a joyful, disco-filled experience. Just like last year, audiences can expect to leave singing the songs and feeling inspired in some way. From our directors, to lighting, to costumes, to wigs and design, our production team has outdone itself in every way to heighten the concept of ‘magic.’
You play Soul Sister, a fairy godmother of sorts, in the production. Describe the process of when your character ‘clicked’ for you. Was it a matter of trial and error, a comment from one of the creatives during rehearsal, or perhaps you have a maternal side that you were able to easily tap into?
Taylor: Getting to play the part of the Soul Sister has been an opportunity for me to discover my own fairy godmother. I remember Whitney Houston in Brandy’s ‘Cinderella.’ It was everything I wanted to be. With Soul Sister, I get to play in that sandbox and it’s really, really fun.
Assuming you weren’t around for the 1970s, how do you prepare for an accurate characterization representative of this era? Are there certain TV shows or films you relied on as inspiration?
Taylor: [Laughs] I wasn’t around for the ’70s, but the women of my family sure were! All of them were fabulous, musical, loving, and firm — all the things. I grew up watching my mom practice and perform with her band wearing her silver disco jumpsuit! Soul Sister, in part, is a nod to all of that goodness. Just…all the things.
Why do you think many have such a fondness for the 1970s? is it the fashion, the glitz, or the music? Maybe all the above?
Taylor: Everything is better on a dance floor with disco-ball lighting. The fashion definitely doesn’t hurt.
As you know, the Garry Marshall Theatre is a rather intimate theatre space. Do you think Cindy & The Disco Ball would work as well in a larger venue?
Taylor: Oh, 100%. One of the unknown ‘Cindy’ facts is that it’s actually a really big show. It has the gift of bringing the audience into the world, so you feel like you’re right there with us. Really, there’s a whole network of people and things behind the scenes keeping the magic alive. I think it would be fun to see it at the [Mark] Taper in L.A. or Circle in the Square in New York — big theaters that make you feel enveloped.
Lastly, given that this musical goes back in time to the 1970s, if you personally had the ability to take a trip to the past, where would you go and why?
Taylor: 1920s. I would’ve hopped over to Europe and performed all over. My own version of Josephine Baker.