If Cinderella had a Facebook page, what would she have posted? Just ask Laura Osnes, who will play the title role in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella on Broadway. While discussing the musical as well as social media, she paused to contemplate what the famous princess might post if experiencing her fairy tale in the modern world.
“Lost my shoe at the princes’ ball tonight. LOL!” Osnes said with a laugh, pausing before she added, “Back at home. Gotta scrub the floors.”
While posting about her missing footwear online might have helped Cinderella to be found by the prince more quickly, the new adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical will probably not have the titular character updating her Facebook status from an iPhone. What it will have is Osnes, a young but experienced Broadway performer who has been seen onstage frequently since first arriving in New York by way of a reality television show.
Osnes made her way to New York by way of the reality television show You’re The One That I Want!, which featured young men and women competing for the roles of Danny and Sandy in a Broadway revival of Grease. Since making her New York stage debut, she has performed on Broadway as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes, Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde, and as Suzy in a production of Pipe Dreams at City Center and Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music at Carnegie Hall. In June, she performed two-week cabaret show at the Cafe Carlyle, a live recording of which was just released on iTunes. Cinderella will begin performances on Broadway in January 2013, with the roles of Prince Topher performed by Santino Fontana and Marie the fairy godmother by Victoria Clark. The show will also feature additional Rodgers and Hammerstein songs that were cut from other musicals, including “Now is the Time” (South Pacific) and “I’ve Lived and I’ve Loved” (The Sound of Music).
“Rodgers and Hammerstein have kept me employed all year!” Osnes said. “I can’t complain. I love their music. And people love seeing that kind of romance.”
Osnes has welcomed the opportunity to perform in classical musical theater roles over the years, saying she enjoyed the opportunity to prove herself as a Broadway performer.
“I feel so blessed and fortunate that the opportunities have come at the right time, to build my career and connections in this city and legitimize myself as a performer and not just that girl from the reality show,” she said. “There was a stigma that came with it – now I feel like I’ve gotten to break free from that and be my own person and my own performer.”
After being featured in several revivals, Osnes most recently created the original role of Bonnie Parker in Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie and Clyde. The musical gave her the opportunity to break free from the ingénue status she had obtained and show her wild side onstage.
“Getting to be Bonnie was so special,” she said of the short-lived Broadway production, for which she received a 2012 Tony Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. “I got to show a different side of me that I hadn’t shown before.”
While Cinderella may be considered more of a “good girl” than Bonnie Parker, Osnes says this production introduces a new type of Cinderella to audiences. While the score is made up of the original music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, a new book is being written by Douglas Carter Beane (Xanandu, Lysistrata Jones) that Osnes described as being more modern and edgy. That much is clear from the musical’s latest advertising campaign, which features the slogan “Glass slippers are SO back.”
“We have a completely rewritten script for our show,” Osnes said. “It feels like we’re doing a new musical, despite it being a historical piece written 50 years ago. It still takes place in a magical fairy tale land, but some of the language is a little more contemporary. It’s a fun twist I think some people might not expect.”
One of the twists of the show that might be unexpected is the plotline that Cinderella’s story follows. While love is still the driving force of the story, Osnes said, it is not the only force.
“In a way Cinderella and [the prince] are both wanting more in their lives, and they find it in each other,” Osnes said. “It’s more than just falling in love. It’s finding their purpose…independently as well as together. It gives it a deeper, more intricate story line than just the Cinderella story that we all know. It definitely makes a statement.”
Osnes described her character as a stronger more independent woman, saying, “She’s not the meek, timid Cinderella we’re used to. She’s willing to fight for what she wants and needs. It’s more than just love that draws her to the prince.”
Cinderella was first written in 1957 and in the years that have passed, women’s roles in society have changed greatly. While marriage and “happily ever after” with a handsome prince may have been the fairy-tale ending audiences wanted 55 years ago, today’s audiences may have a different response.
“I think we’re updating it for today’s time, which will speak to girls of today,” Osnes said of the 2012 Cinderella. “She is a stronger character and has more of a purpose and a destiny, but she is still the princess that deep down inside every girl wants to be and can relate to. I think there’s that perfect balance of that princess that we all fell in love with years ago as well as the contemporary strength and independence of this Cinderella.”
Cinderella was filmed for television with both Julie Andrews and Lesley Ann Warren playing the title role, both have been aired on television, but this production marks the first time Cinderella has been performed on Broadway. Osnes has never seen the recording that features Warren, but she recognizes how much people love the movie. She said she does feel some nervousness taking on such an iconic role, but she also appreciates the opportunity of performing it on Broadway for the first time.
“In a way I guess I feel I get to create it for the first time, and people get to see it for the first time,” she said. “I think as long as I stay true to what’s there and embrace the story for what it is, I won’t have much to worry about – hopefully. I feel like there was more pressure with other roles I’ve played…It’s an honor to be this generation’s Cinderella.”
While Cinderella received assistance from a benevolent magical friend, Osnes’ rapid ascent in New York can only be credited to the her own work and success. She expressed surprise as well as gratitude for the path her career has taken, saying, “Even though I won [the tv show] and did Grease on Broadway, I don’t think I ever would have imagined my career going this well this soon in my life. If I could have planned it, I wouldn’t have planned it this well.”
Don’t count on Osnes stepping out of the limelight any time soon. Cinderella has not begun rehearsals yet, but she is already thinking of what will come next.
“It’s every girl’s dream to play a princess, especially Cinderella,” she said. “I can’t wait to wear the dress and see what my glass slippers look like. It’ll be fun to be a girl girl again, and not play the tough murderer. Although that was fun, too! I hope after Cinderella, I get to play something edgy again.”