They Deserve a Win: ‘Cinderella’ debuts on Broadway as a reimagined, empowering story for all audiences

Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana in 'Cinderella'

Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana in ‘Cinderella’

Every time I have seen Cinderella I have been seated next to a young girl. Most of the time they are dressed in a poofy costume gown, one that they likely picked up as a toy for dress up and talked their way into wearing to the musical, and their reaction is always the same when Laura Osnes moves into center stage. Last night the little girl beside me, who looked no older than five years old, looked to her mom with wide eyes and loudly whispered, “Is that Cinderella?”

Those little, adorable girls whose faces light up at the sight of Osnes and stand on their tip-toes in front of their chair or crawl on their parent’s lap to try to sneak a closer look are why this magical musical is so important and the reason why Cinderella can only be played by Broadway’s real-life princess. Every night Cinderella is becoming a memory that will last a lifetime and Osnes, who has worked so hard during her seven years on Broadway and longer as out-of-town an actress, is becoming a role model and an icon.

With nine nominations including Best Revival of a Musical, Leading Actress in a Musical for Osnes, Leading Actor in a Musical for Santino Fontana, Featured Actress in a Musical for Victoria Clark, and Best Book of a Musical for Douglas Carter Beane, it’s evident that audiences aren’t the only ones falling in love with this enchanting story with a twist.

The magic of Cinderella is not only found in the bright, shining faces of its youngest audiences members but in the rich and timeless lyrics created by Rodgers and Hammerstein and in Beane’s new book which allows Cinderella to become the heroine of her own story and Prince Topher, a somewhat naïve and very well-intentioned but mislead prince, to be a fully-developed character. It is found in the inspired quick-change costumes created by Tony nominated costume designer William Ivey Long that always warrants a few surprised gasps from the audience but in the brilliant cast that is so deserving of every nomination and compliment.

The first time I ever saw Cinderella was the first-time it was ever performed on a Broadway stage for a public audience. As I sat and watched some of the most inspiring performers on Broadway originate well-loved roles on the stage, my heart swelled with pride and delight because I knew that this would be a show that would become so important to so many people. Those who long for classical Broadway scores, those who remember Cinderella from their Disney collection and those who have longed to see Osnes and Fontana take to the stage in a production that complemented their talents and gave them the attention they so sorely deserve.

This unbelievable cast is the reason why I have seen Cinderella four times and have tickets for a fifth show which is something I try my very best to avoid. (There are so many brilliant shows on stage, why limit myself to becoming a multiple repeat offender?) But by the end of “There Is Music in You”, a performance that no doubt helped lock in Clark’s nomination for Featured Actress in a Musical this year, I am always in tears because I am seeing these brilliant performers as their characters but also as the actors behind the characters. Watching Cinderella makes me incredibly proud to be a longtime fan of Osnes, Fontana and the ensemble cast members including Greg Hildreth who originates the role of a revolutionary named Jean-Michel and previously delivered a hilarious performance in Peter and the Starcatcher.

There’s no question that Fontana is one of the leading inspirations in my own life for his perseverance, strength, humbleness and ability to keep smiling even when he’s really, really tired, so seeing him in a production as mainstream as Cinderella and watching audiences fall in love with him through his charming performance as Topher is greatly satisfying because it’s so deserved.

As the story unravels and topics of true love, freedom and democracy and finding ones place in the world, it becomes apparent that this isn’t a cookie-cutter show but one that truly reaches across the generations. Cinderella is introducing a young and new audience to Broadway theatre, it places Fontana and Osnes in the spotlight where they absolutely shine and the message of being your own hero and writing your own story is important for everyone.

So whether critics are saying it is “Impossible” for Cinderella to walk away with some of the top honors at this evening’s awards, I, and all other fans of this lovable and spectacular musical, challenge and say that if this beautiful musical teaches anything it’s that impossible things are happening every day.

About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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