It’s no small task to take on an iconic figure of romance from folklore, but Andy Huntington Jones is feeling up to the job. He’s starring as the prince in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which comes to Boston tonight for a few weeks of shows. The Swampscott native has been with the show since it premiered on Broadway, but he says you can expect a slightly more modern take on the story.
How has Prince Topher changed since you’ve been with the show?
For me personally, it's changed because I started as an understudy so I was emulating someone else’s performance and trying not to throw anybody. And Santino Fontana did an amazing job in the original company. He was the voice of Hans in "Frozen." He was the perfect quirky prince. And he got a Tony nomination for his performance. I was emulating him and it's taken me a lot of the tour to find my own voice a little bit.
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How do you make someone who’s royalty relatable?
[Show writer] Douglas Carter Beane has made it a little easier on us just in the way the story is written. I feel like this version of the prince, instead of being the stick figure archetype, is a normal person who, as we could all imagine, with responsibility to rule the kingdom with a manipulative advisor and parents long gone, there’s all this responsibility — it’s so overwhelming. For me, and I think the audience too, to put yourself in his shoes you very quickly see this human being who wants to do what’s right and can’t quite figure out how to do that. So it’s incredibly empowering to see this love story that comes about for positive reasons. You know, positive personal reasons as opposed to "oh she’s pretty and I need a wife." They really truly fall in love with each other because they bring out the best in each other.
Is it weird to take on such a famous romantic figure?
Honestly, the pressure's kind of off, because he’s awkward and he went to an all-boys school and hasn’t ever talked to girls before. And I think as soon as the audience sees "oh, I know this guy, I am this guy," the pressure’s off to make him kind of this smarmy romantic prince. Although he’s very romantic, he’s not a romance novel by any means.
He’s not an archetype instead of a person.
Right. He’s not the shirtless long haired prince on a horse galloping in slow motion down the beach. He’s the prince stress eating Cheetos while trying to finish his final.
When the show was updated from the original to the modern era, what changed?
I think the main thing that’s different is the sense of humor. Because I feel like a lot of times Cinderella can be a sticky sweet telling of a heavy-handed moral or a heavy-handed theme, and in this version we have the classic story that you’re expecting and the classic story that’s been around for hundreds of years, but we’re telling it with a modern sense of humor. It’s set in a tone and written in a voice that we recognize.