Once upon a time, Santino Fontana just couldn't picture himself as a prince. Long story short, in a spin on a fairy tale ending, here he is playing the Prince in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella — which began previews Jan. 25 and opens March 3 at the Broadway Theatre — and he's having a ball.
"I had huge hesitations," admits Fontana, whose Broadway credits include Sunday in the Park with George and Billy Elliot. "When I got the offer, I said, 'The Prince? Me? Are you sure?' It's not something I'd normally be drawn to, to be honest. There are other things I'd rather do than play a boring, stereotypical Prince with the depth of a contact lens. But then I read the script, and it made total sense. This is another weird, random thing that I am totally right for. Several friends have called me and said, 'What are you doing?' I'm like, 'No, it's not the Cinderella you think!'"
Based on the classic rags-to-riches fairy tale, Cinderella, the only Rodgers and Hammerstein musical written for television, was broadcast live in 1957 with Julie Andrews in the title role; Lesley Ann Warren and Brandy headlined the 1965 and 1997 TV versions, respectively. Directed by Mark Brokaw, the popular stage adaptation finally makes its Broadway premiere with star Laura Osnes and a sparkly new book by musical theatre's own fairy godfather, Douglas Carter Beane.
As part of his magical makeover, Beane, who most recently co-wrote Broadway's Lysistrata Jones and Sister Act, has added depth to Cinderella's kingdom of characters. "Sure, the Prince is charming, witty, fair, kind, and everything I wish I were all the time, but he's also a complicated guy," Fontana says. "He's about to be King, so he's having this huge existential crisis." The Prince's first song is "Me, Who Am I?," an added number originally cut from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Me and Juliet. "Amidst vanquishing dragons and giants, he's basically trying to figure out what kind of king he should be and how he should rule. Luckily, Cinderella helps him figure things out, and it all ends happily ever after."
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