BWW Interview: Caitlin Meighan of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at The Bushnell, 11/15-20
From the world of ballet to the beautiful world of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, Connecticut native Caitlin Meighan will make her hometown musical theatre debut on the Bushnell Theater stage when this beautiful new production rolls into Hartford on November 15. I had the chance to sit down and speak with Caitlin about her career in ballet, her leap into the world of musical theatre, and her love of this timeless story.
BWW: Caitlin, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. We are really looking forward to AN AMERICAN IN PARIS in Hartford!
Caitlin Meighan: Oh, good! I am so glad!
Can you start by telling us a little bit about how you got started performing?
I actually started in the ballet world. I started dancing when I was three, and I continued my ballet training until I was 12 and then decided I really wanted to be a ballet dancer. I made it my mission to become that. I spent 10 years with the Joffrey. After that I saw AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and really loved the show and I decided this is what I want to do with the next chapter of my life.
You have a very unique background, coming from the ballet world. Tell us how it has been making the transition to a musical like this.
There has definitely been a learning curve! Many of the people in the show did come from ballet backgrounds and we are very fortunate to have this show where they are very understanding and try to make you as comfortable as possible as you venture into this world. Everyone has been very supportive. You do, in ballet, have acting experience and are often telling stories, just not speaking. So it has been a very interesting experience to use words to express the story. But it has been really amazing and such a fun experience.
Is the cast a mix of people with ballet backgrounds and theatre backgrounds?
There are a handful of people who came directly from dance companies, including the lead and alternate dancers, who came from Miami City Ballet. So it is a good mix.
Is this your first musical?
Yes, this is my very first musical ever! I tell myself every day how lucky I am to be doing this.
And coming to Hartford is a homecoming for you being originally from Connecticut.
Yes, I grew up in Weston and my Dad grew up in Old Saybrook, so its great to be coming home!
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a show where many are familiar with the original movie while others are familiar with the music, and some not at all. How would you describe the show to someone who isn't familiar with the show?
It is a classic love story. It's something that brings joy. It's complicated, yet hopeful. It tugs at your heartstrings. It's the kind of show that you see and are immediately filled with joy. I know I felt it when I saw it for the first time. It really has everything. There are whimsical fantasy scenes and also very real, and emotional scenes, and of course a lot of dancing! And as far as the score goes, even if you don't think you know the music, you will hear it and go "Oh, yeah! I know that song!" It is just one of those shows where you get very attached to the storyline and the people and their stories with each other. It's very clever and very visually stunning. I know I am biased but it is an incredible show.
You understudy one of the roles. Have you gotten to go on yet?
Not yet. However, my good friend Leigh, who is the twin of the lead, Sara, is actually going on in Hartford. I am so excited for her! She and her sister have very different interpretations of the part, but it is great to see each of their personalities shine through.
What do you look forward to the most before you step out on stage each night? Is there a particular scene/number that you love to be a part of or watch from the wings?
I really love singing. I wasn't able to do it in my old job as much, obviously. I also really get excited to watch my colleagues every single day. As much as I enjoy the show I know how much they love it too and I pinch myself every day watching them. I have the utmost respect for what they bring to the stage every night and that really fuels and inspires me to be the best I can be that day. Just watching them and fueling off their energy gets me excited to perform with them. It's a wonderful atmosphere that we have created, with so many talented, inspiring people.
It is always interesting to talk with someone who is part of a first national tour of a show, because they get to bring the experience of the Broadway production to new audiences. But for you, it has to be exciting to have been sitting in the audience one day and then suddenly be a part of it all!
It really is a serious case of dreams come true!
Is this your first tour like this or did you ever dance on tour with Joffrey?
The longest tour I ever did with them was three weeks on the road, then back to Chicago for two, then back on the road for a month. But we would never sit in one place for long, we would go from one city to the next. I think we did 22 cities in eight weeks or something like that. But I have never done anything like this where you pack up your whole life. It's a puzzle every city trying to figure out what you can bring. I think it is an amazing opportunity as an American to go and explore your country like this. One city at a time.
And you are just getting started on this tour?
Yes, this is just our third week!
What would you say are the best and most difficult parts about touring with a show like this?
Being away from my husband. He is back in Chicago. We recently got married in May, so it is very eye opening, but also reaffirming to see how amazing he is. He is very supportive and wants me to always go for my dreams so he has made this process very easy for me. He is my number one cheerleader. You never know what to expect being away from your loved ones, but it is fun when he comes to visit!
Thinking toward the future, do you have a dream role that you would one day like to play? What's next for you?
I really think I have to play it by ear. I am having so much fun with this group and with this show. I do feel the possibilities are around me, but I am taking it day by day. This is such a new venture for me, I just want to enjoy it and the rest will fall into place I am sure.
You mentioned you started dancing very young - do you have any advice for young performers looking to make it into performing either dance or theatre?
I would say if you love it and you love whatever you are going into, just realize that it is hard work and it takes dedication. I would say don't forget how much you love it. Let the love drive what you do. I have always loved what I was doing and it never felt like work. Be individual, it's ok to be unique. Take comfort in the fact that that you are not like everyone else, that you are special. Inspire yourself daily. Watch your idols. Look for something to strive for. Be open to advice. Don't be afraid to learn. You never stop growing. I would never say I am perfect - there is always room to grow.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I think it's a show that reminds us of the beautiful days of Gene Kelly, and the kind of movies we grew up watching, but it makes it a little more modern. In this world it's joy that makes the world go around, and so to come see the show is to perpetuate the joy. It is just a wonderful experience. I know I feel it being in it, and felt it when I saw it originally. Everyone loves a classic love story.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS runs at the Bushnell Theatre in Hartford, CT November 15 - 20. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Ticket prices start at $25.50. Tickets are available online at www.bushnell.org, by phone at 860-987-5900, or at The Bushnell box office, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford.
Middle and Bottom Photos: An American in Paris Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.