BroadwayGirlNYC: Brunette Cinderella

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BroadwayGirlNYC: Brunette Cinderella

My twitter feed started up like crazy last night after I retweeted the following:

@CarolynShea: I have a problem with Cinderella on Bway being a brunette.  I don't mean to discriminate but they could put a wig on Osnes. @BroadwayGirlNYC
 
As you can see, the poster included my twitter ID in her initial tweet, which means she intended for me to see it and (presumably) express my opinion.  I did so in two tweets:
 
Immediately, both of my tweets were retweeted and favorited en masse.  People began to reply not just to me but to @CarolynShea.  Just a few minutes later the original message disappeared, and then a tweet appeared reading "Too many people assume my tweet was about them so I deleted it.  But I stand by how I feel.  #speakingthetruth" (She didn't say whether this was in reference to the Cinderella tweet; it did appear within minutes of the tweet in question being deleted).
 
This Broadway fan is entitled to her opinion.  I'm proud to be vocal in a community that provides a platform for free speech.  As you can see from my tweets above, I do not object to her having an opinion different than mine; I am simply using the same platform to express my opinion as well.
 
In this case, my opinion is that the best actress for any role should be cast.  If the script specifies a superficial trait, said actress can be chosen or costumed appropriately -- I'm not going to argue that Elle Woods should be played by a brunette, or that Goldilocks should be a redhead.  But the idea that Cinderella needs to be blond, simply because she was fair-haired in the 1950 Disney movie, is ridiculous.  
 
One tweeter, @amysmallwd, responded: "Very true, and I'm ok with her hair color - but I do get that for some it's like making Ariel black-haired."
 
The crucial issue here is that The Little Mermaid on Broadway was a direct adaptation of the Disney film of the same name.  It was designed and marketed toward the audience that already knew and loved the movie.  I must acknowledge and applaud the casting of Norm Lewis as King Triton, and that of the sisters who had various shades of skin.  But it does not surprise me that Sierra Boggess, as Ariel, was outfitted with a crimson wig.  Ariel, the Disney character, is recognized by her red hair.  The branding of Ariel is dependent upon her being a redhead.  Ariel is a creation of the Disney brand.  Cinderella is not.
 
The story of Cinderella was first published in 1697 by a Frenchman named Charles Perrault.  You can read an English translation of the text here.  Many versions of the tale have existed around the world since even earlier.  Disney's adaptation gave the girl blond hair.  But the original makes no mention of it.
 
If Disney brought their version of Cinderella to the stage, perhaps there would be an argument for a blonde wig to be worn by the leading lady.  Personally, I don't think the Cinderella brand is dependent on hair color to the same degree as the Ariel brand; but still I see how the argument could be made.  But Disney has nothing to do with Cinderella on Broadway.  Rodgers & Hammerstein made their own adaptation of the Cinderella story, unaffiliated with the 1950 animated film.  
 
 
(Likewise, should a musical be produced based on the original Hans Christen Andersen story "The Little Mermaid," I'd certainly argue that the protagonist's hair color is unimportant. Her name is not Ariel.  And she gets her tongue cut out in that version, btw, which just goes to show that every adaptation takes liberties.)
 
Interestingly, this isn't the first time the hair-color debate has been made about Laura Osnes, who will play Cinderella in the upcoming Broadway production.  She came into the public eye as a contestant on "Grease: You're the One that I Want," a reality TV show designed to pick a Danny and a Sandy for the iconic roles in one of Broadway's most singable musicals.  Laura, sporting her natural brunette locks, won the role of Sandy -- and many fans believed she should dye her hair blond or wear a wig, because they knew Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsen from the 1978 movie. Never mind that Carol Dumas, who played the original Sandy Dumbrowski on Broadway, was a brunette.
 
I got my first glimpse of Laura Osnes as Cinderella when she performed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and that was all I needed to convince me she's the right lady for the job.  I didn't think one second about her hair color; in fact it never would have occurred to me except for the tweet that started this conversation in the first place.  
 
In conclusion, I'd like to share an exchange that I had just moments ago:
 
A tweeter named @SunnyLuciani offered, "OMG so so I have a problem with CinderellaBroadway being a brunette."  (I have to give her credit for offering what had clearly been deemed an unpopular opinion; she was the only one to contribute this point of view after @CarolynShea, who deleted hers.)
I wrote back simply, "Why?"
@SunnyLuciani replied within seconds: "haha good question. I have to rethink this. You're right. Absolutely right."
 
Let's all rethink this.  With more and more Broadway musicals being adapted from familiar material, it can be easy to picture previous incarnations when imagining the design of a production.  We must trust that the designers, director and casting team will bring us the very best conversion for the stage, which may or may not resemble the version we know.  We go to the theatre to have our minds opened, and blown!  If they only gave us what we've seen on television, wouldn't that be a shame?
 
Tweet me at @BroadwayGirlNYC.
 
 

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BroadwayGirl NYC A passionate observer of all things theatrical, @BroadwayGirlNYC via her blog and on Twitter has helped to lead the way of interaction between fans, shows, industry insiders and performers in the brave new world of Showcial Networking. Her unique and positive take on Broadway has broken news, gossip and has helped to shine a light on the ever-growing presence of all things theatrical on Twitter and beyond to her thousands of followers. Along with constant updates, she also pioneered the extremely popular #SingleOnBway campaign which brought together theatre fans in a new and unique way, setting up 'blind dates' as part of a ticket giveaway.