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On Tuesday night, Keke Palmer will slip into a pair of glass slippers and make her Broadway debut in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, playing the title role. Before she hits the stage with Sherri Shepherd (as Palmer’s character’s evil stepmother, Madame) on opening night, we stopped by the Tricone Costumes studio last week to see how the 21-year-old actress-singer transforms into the famous princess with the help of Tony award-winning costume designer William Ivey Long.
When Palmer first heard that she landed the role, she was “shocked,” but it made her realize that “if you really try and put your best foot forward, things really can happen, so it was a kind of like a moment of what I believe was truly right.”
Since prepping and rehearsing for her first theater production, the Masters of Sex star tells Pret-a-Reporter that she’s learned to become much more disciplined, both in her career and in her personal life. “It forces you to push yourself in ways you never knew you could be pushed. The repetition — just searching and learning, getting in the groove of things and making yourself to just keep going,” she says.
For Palmer, she hopes the audience walks away after watching the show with the sense that “everything is possible.” Seeing that she will be the first African-American actress to portray Cinderella on Broadway, she’s proving that it is, indeed.
Below, we go behind the scenes with four out of five of Palmer’s looks (her wedding dress, not included) as Cinderella. Enjoy.
LOOK 1: PEASANT DRESS
Although this peasant dress looks polished at the moment this photo was taken, the piece appears much more filthy during the show — or as Palmer says in between getting her hemline shortened or parts of her shirt tucked in, “It looks like it’s been living in the woods for weeks.”
“Many Cinderellas in the history of telling the story have Cinderella in gray because she’s in cinders. I just thought, ‘Who wants to see Cinderella in gray?’ ” explains Long about deciding how to design the ensemble. “You can be influenced by the cinders, but you started out in a nice dress, so this is very warm — it’s brick brown, red, green.”
Adds Palmer: “I think it’s very expressive of her spirit, even when she’s dirtied up.”
LOOK 2: WHITE BALL GOWN
“This is me in my own head: ‘OMG girl, you look so beautiful! What are you going to do when you get out there? This is a dream come true, girl. Girl, just enjoy it. Just trying to live in the moment. It’s a moment I’ll never forget,’ ” says Palmer when asked how it feels to be wearing the gown. Long notes that the bottom half contains 14 layers of mixed materials including sparkle sheer, brocade and nylon, with a mix of hotfix and Swarvoski jewels added on the top layer. Wondering how Palmer will be able to move while wearing that much fabric? There’s a hoop added at the top of the skirt so “it helps her go up the stairs,” says the costume designer.
LOOK 3: STEPSISTER’S CORAL DRESS
In the production, Palmer borrows this coral and gold ensemble from stepsister Gabrielle, who turns out to be an ally, only to have her evil stepmother, Madame (Shepherd) rip it apart when she sees her wearing it. However, thanks to Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Judy Kaye), the rags from this outfit are magically transformed to a gorgeous golden gown (pictured below).
LOOK 4: GOLD GOWN
Cinderella, starring Palmer and Shepherd, opens Sept. 9. For more info, visit cinderellaonbroadway.com.
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