By: Allison Wisyanski ~Staff Writer~
On Sept. 16, Keke Palmer stepped into Cinderella’s glass slippers as the first African-American actress ever to play the role on Broadway. “Cinderella,” a Rodgers and Hammerstein production, debuted a year and a half ago and won a Tony award. This marks the first time an African-American woman has played the princess in the history of the show.
Palmer has had much success with her 2006 role in “Akeelah and the Bee” and her present role as the youngest talk show host in the nation on the B.E.T. show “Just Keke.”
She replaces Cindy Paige Faure in the role of Cinderella, who has also been played by Carly Rae
Jepsen. Sherri Shepard, who plays the evil stepmother, is another African-American actress who will perform alongside Palmer.
According to NBC News, when Palmer got the offer she felt overwhelmed. “I don’t even know how to describe this feeling. I was just very – this is crazy,” Palmer said.
In mid-August, Palmer announced the news and tweeted, “Dreams do come true!! We are brothers & sisters y’all. All colors! Peace is the answer. Stop separating yourself through race.” She announced it after the shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. According to the Hollywood Reporter, she wanted to promote non-violence, and she saw the role as an opportunity to show her fans that “everything is possible.”
Palmer especially wanted to encourage young black girls to
follow their dreams. “It’s good for them just to be able to see someone that looks like them and
lets them know that it’s possible,” Palmer said to NBC News. “But just because you have never seen it doesn’t mean that you can’t be it.”
Cinderella is not the first Broadway production to have black performers play traditionally Caucasian roles. “Phantom of the Opera” was the first, with black actor Norm Lewis playing the Phantom. Palmer’s words are inspiring, and at the age of 21, she’s living the Cinderella story. She hopes that from this show Broadway will slowly but surely employ actors of color for a broader array of parts.