Cinderella Stars Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana Remember When at 54 Below
By Carey Purcell
Laughter filled the air at 54 Below Sept. 23 when Osnes and Fontana took the stage for an evening titled Remember When... A Benefit Evening of Music and Dining.
Hosted by Steven Reineke, the concert benefited The New York Pops Education Programs and Ronald McDonald House New York, which provide creative outlets to the children and families in residence.
The evening featured a lighthearted lineup of songs selected by Osnes and Fontana, newly appointed Pops Education Ambassadors, as well as a charity auction hosted by Bill Sullivan, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House.
Accompanied by music director Andy Einhorn on the piano, Mark Vanderpoel on bass and Rich Rosenzweig on drums, Osnes and Fontana began the evening with a spirited rendition of Cole Porter's "Friendship," for which they personally re-wrote the lyrics to include references to Twitter and inside jokes they shared.
They regaled the audience with backstage stories of mishaps at Cinderella, explaining that, after performances, they tweet each other with, "Remember when?," describing the mishaps to their Twitter followers. Memories included tripping up a flight of stairs, Fontana's crown falling down the front of his head and the wrong shoe being brought onstage for Cinderella's big moment.
The friendship between Osnes and Fontana was apparent as they teased each other between songs. They then invited the audience for a trip down memory lane, beginning when, at the age of 10, Osnes sang "You've Got Possibilities" to her teddy bear and Fontana auditioned for the role of Artful Dodger in Oliver!, singing, "That's Entertainment" with a lisp (which he gamely re-created for the evening's performance).
Songs also included "Never Never Land" from Peter Pan, which Osnes starred in while she was in high school (and Fontana informed the audience was available on YouTube), and John Denver's "Grandma's Feather Bed," featuring Fontana accompanying himself on the piano.
First loves were revisited when Osnes sang Maury Yeston's "My Grandmother's Love Letters." She remembered receiving an anonymous love letter in her locker in school, and Fontana asked her if she ever learned who sent it. When she said no, he joked that, per his invitation, the man was in the audience. The two then duetted on wistful renditions of "The Boy Next Door" and "Once Upon a Time."
"That's kind of an idealized version of romantic love," Fontana said, adding, "Now we're going to show you what it's really like." The duo then launched into the duet "It's Not Every Day of the Week." They also shared the stage while singing "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" and a slow, lilting version of "Ten Minutes Ago."
Following the performance, Osnes and Fontana chatted about their own childhood performances, listing Mary in The Secret Garden, Jack from Into the Woods and Henrik from A Little Night Music as the roles they wished they had played when younger.
When asked about their new roles as Pops Education Ambassadors, Fontana said, "It's basically a new group of celebrities and artists, Broadway and TV and film, who are all agreeing to help raise the profile of music education at schools throughout New York City."
"The Pops has a high emphasis on music education programs and recently asked a lot of artists in the city to come on board and help promote that, appear at events on behalf of that, maybe do Q&As with students on their education programs," Osnes added.
Osnes and Fontana credited their childhoods in school choir, jazz band and theatre programs with their current success on Broadway.
"Since I was five, I wanted to be on Broadway," Osnes said. "I've had my eye on it for a long time. To actually be here doing it, I can say that I'm living the dream I had when I was five. So keep at it, because it happens!"
Fontana emphasized the importance of arts education, saying, "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't have that. We need it."
More information about the New York Pops can be found by visiting newyorkpops.org.