Denee Benton breaks down barriers in Broadway's 'Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812'

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Sandy Kenyon sat down with Denee Benton, star of "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812."

A Broadway show is sending a message, not just with its script, but also with the casting of its actors.

Denee Benton stars in "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812," and she is speaking out about what it means to be a woman of color in a show about 19th-century Russia.

The show marks Benton's Brodway debut, as well as that of recording artist Josh Groban, who plays Pierre.

Just three years ago, the now-25-year-old Benton was graduating from college, and now her name is on a marquee next to Groban's.

"Kind of a testament to all of those daydreams that I didn't realize were being watched or heard," she said. "And to see them come true now is really special."

Benton grew up in Florida, inspired as a child by "Cinderella" starring Brandi and Whitney Houston.

"To see black women getting to tell those kind of stories didn't happen all the time, you know?" she said. "And I felt like that spark of, oh, maybe that is possible."

Now, she seeks to inspire the next generation.

"Little girls not even question that it can be them, not question that they're worthy enough," she said.

Her mere presence on the stage offers hope. She plays a Russian princess in a narrative that is part of the famous 19th century novel "War and Peace."

"It tells the truth that grace and beauty and love and loss and existential crises can come in all shades and sizes and colors," she said.

It is a truth told every night just a few steps away from where "Hamilton" sends a similar message.

"And I hope it's a truth telling that's here to stay," she said. "When you get past tokenism and have a number of
people of color, a number of people that have been deemed as other, getting to represent archetypes, I think that's what really gets to shatter the ceiling."

Benton and the rest of the cast may be appearing in period clothes, because the show is set in Russia during 1812,
but before act two every night, after intermission is almost over, they sing Usher's "You Make Me Wanna" to get psyched to finish the show.
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