The Theatre District’s 45th Street is the backdrop for Linedy Genao’s Broadway fairy tale. She made her Broadway debut in On Your Feet! at the Marquis Theatre, made her post-pandemic Broadway return in Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theatre, and will now make her principal debut as Cinderella in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bad Cinderella at the Imperial Theatre. She is the first Latin-American leading lady to originate an Andrew Lloyd Webber principal role.
The new musical arrives on Broadway February 17, 2023, ahead of its March 23 opening, a day after Webber’s birthday.
With a book by Emerald Fennell, lyrics by Tony and Olivier Award winner David Zippel, and music by EGOT winner Webber, the story puts a twist on the timeless tale of Cinderella. Genao steps into Cinderella’s glass slippers in the revamped version of the Brothers Grimm classic. Broadway Direct sat down with Genao to hear about her transformation into a Broadway actor, her relationship to the character of Cinderella, and more.
Tell me about your transition from majoring in business in college to performing professionally.
I went to the University of Connecticut and got a degree in business administration, but I’ve been singing since I was little. I sang in church and then discovered theater in high school, which is when I fell in love with it. I had an incredible theater teacher who saw my potential and really pushed me.
I auditioned for the top three musical-theater colleges and I said to myself, “If I don’t get in, it’s not meant to be.” Well, I didn’t get in. So I decided to keep doing it as a hobby in my community.
I was at my first postcollegiate job at a private bank in the city when my friend sent me the open-call breakdown for On Your Feet! She was like, “You have to do this.” I looked at the breakdown and I was like, “They’re looking for Latinos. I don’t have to pretend to be anybody else.” I grew up on Gloria Estefan’s music, so I figured I should just try, I had nothing to lose.
I took a selfie on my iPhone 4 and printed it out at Walgreens for my headshot. I was so embarrassed submitting that. I went to the open call with all my bags because I was commuting from Connecticut to the city all the time to work at the bank. From that open call, with just high school and community theater experience, I made my Broadway debut.
I learned everything that I know professionally from On Your Feet! Like that’s where I learned how to bevel. Everyone took me under their wing to teach me all that I know today. I cried every day because I couldn’t believe my dream came true. I’ll never forget that.
And you knew from that experience you wanted to commit to the professional performer life?
I told myself, “I’m going to ride this wave until I can’t anymore.” Every opportunity I get could be the last. There are 50,000 other girls who went to school for this and are probably much more qualified than I am. I pinch myself every day because this was never something that I really planned for or thought was my trajectory.
Do you ever feel a sense of imposter syndrome since you didn’t go to school for theater?
I deal with that every day. I’m like, “Who am I? I’m about to be in an Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical!” As I’ve gotten older and have more experience, I’ve learned to remind myself that I have worked so hard in my own way.
I feel like a testament to the saying in Spanish that goes, “Lo que es pa ti, nadie te lo quita.” It translates to “What’s meant for you is meant for you.”
I deserve this just as much as anybody else who has all the training in the world, because at the end of the day this was not handed to you. This audition process was the most grueling I have ever been through. I left my soul and my heart there. I’m so damn proud of myself.
How has it been working with Andrew Lloyd Webber?
It’s been incredible working with him. It’s been nothing but kindness. He loves to laugh and is so passionate about his work. I had sung his songs growing up, so I still can’t believe we’re collaborating. The team gave me his autobiography to read so I could know him more as a human, the struggles he has gone through, where he was in his life when he wrote things. So now each time we see each other to work, it’s more like we’re peers.
What about your character of Cinderella resonates with you?
I feel that I can be myself — I don’t have to put anything on. In this version, Cinderella is living her most authentic life. She does not want to conform. She wants to be herself in a society where they don’t accept her because she’s different. That’s what we’re living through every single day here in this country. Her being able to live her most authentic self means that I can do that onstage.
There have been so many conversations and more consciousness about representation in theater. Is that something you’re thinking about while you prepare for this role?
I feel an immense responsibility, which makes me a little nervous that I might not live up to all these expectations. There have been so many people who have reached out — all my little cousins, all the outlets in the Dominican Republic, and all these Latino outlets — and that made me realize how big this is. That’s what In the Heights was for me. I was crying in my seat because I heard them say, “Dominican Republic,” and because I heard and saw people who looked like me and my family.
I pray and hope that there are people who sit in the audience and feel more represented, because we still have a lot of work to do. I can’t represent the entire community, but I do understand that it’s a big responsibility and I don’t take it for granted. I know it’s much bigger than me. I want to use my platform as much as I can to amplify that. It’s really important.
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