BWW Interviews: Cheryl Allison of BUDDY- THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at Casa Manana
Cheryl Allison may not be a household name (yet), but her resume is extremely impressive, to say the least. With credits on Broadway, in Japan, several national tours, and endless regional theatres, Cheryl has made an impressive career out of theatre, which she first discovered as a child in Dallas. Not only is Cheryl starring in numerous roles this season at Casa Mañana in Fort Worth, but she just finished shooting her first feature film in July 2014, NO LETTING GO (co-starring Kathy Najimy and Alysia Reiner), set to be released in 2016.
Over a cappuccino last week (the night before she opened in THE WIZARD OF OZ), Cheryl candidly shared her exciting theatre experiences with me, from recording the CHILDREN OF EDEN cast album, to meeting a former president, to accidents onstage in THE SECRET GARDEN national tour with Audra McDonald. To learn about Cheryl's current and upcoming roles, check out our conversation below:
Name: Cheryl Allison
Hometown: "Born in Ft. Worth; raised in Dallas"
Current Role(s): The Wicked Witch of The West in THE WIZARD OF OZ, and in preparations for Vi Petty in BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, followed by Mme. Thenardier in LES MISERABLES
Kyle Christopher West: It seems that you've performed all over the world. Where were you born and raised?
Cheryl Allison: I was born in Ft. Worth, [and] raised in Dallas. I went to school here, graduated from college, and went straight to New York!
Kyle: What made you decide to return to Texas?
Cheryl: About 7 years ago, my partner and I moved back here to be closer to my family. We have a condo here, and we split our time between New York and here. Cast Mañana has been very faithful to me. This season, I will have done every Broadway series show except for one!
Kyle: Looking at your resume, you've had quite an impressive career in both theatre and film. What first inspired you to perform?
Cheryl: Well, my parents are both in music: my dad got his masters at the Ft. Worth Seminary, and my mom was a music education major. She taught music at an elementary school. They're both great singers. I grew up watching them perform. I remember going to Dallas Summer Musicals and dreaming about these national tours and Broadway shows and that sort of thing [laughs].
Kyle: You've performed so many great roles locally, on Broadway, and in some of the country's best regional theaters. I know it's hard to pick favorites, but do any of your theatre experiences stand out for one reason or another?
Cheryl: Gosh, that's hard, because there are several. I think, as far as "most fun" would be THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY because we literally put on a rock concert every night. What's unique about this show is there's no orchestra: every actor has to play an instrument, [and] I play rock and roll keyboards. All of the music you hear is being created by the cast. The last 20 minutes of the show, we recreate Buddy's final concert. The audience is usually in the aisles dancing. Also, recently, I've done my favorite role of all time, which was Truvy in STEEL MAGNOLIAS (the Dolly Parton role). I did it out at Casa Mañana with Ruta Lee. It was amazing working with her, and doing the show with five other incredible, kick-ass women.
Kyle: Is there a role that stands out as being the most challenging?
Cheryl: I was covering Judy McLane as Aldonza in MAN OF LA MANCHA at Papermill Playhouse. I went on for, I think it was, 10 days. That was a very tough role, [but] it was wonderful.
Kyle: How about a role you've been dying to play?
Cheryl: One of the show's I've always wanted to do, I am doing now: LES MISERABLES, next season at Casa Manana. I'm going to be Mme. Thenadier, so it's going to be so much fun. I would love to be Donna in Mamma Mia [and Diana in] Next to Normal.
Kyle: I know you're currently in rehearsals for THE WIZARD OF OZ and then for THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at Casa Mañana. How are rehearsals going?
Cheryl: [After THE WIZARD OF OZ closes], I have a week off, and then we start BUDDY. Then, I'll start rehearsing LES MISERABLES while we're ending BUDDY. My first show at Casa [Manana], BIG RIVER, I thought "This reminds me of Papermill Playhouse." It's a very professional, but family, environment and I really like that.
Kyle: For THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, you are returning to one of the same roles you played on the national tour. How does it feel to revisit your character?
Cheryl: On the tour, I understudied Vi Petty, so I covered her and went on numerous times. It's very sentimental, you know, coming full circle, because it's always been one of my favorites. I think at this age, just with maturity, I can bring so much more to it. [On tour], I played the role at The Kennedy Center and got to meet President Bush Sr. One night, we got an announcement that President and Barbara Bush were going to be at the performance that night in the presidential box. The secret service [was] there, and they basically patted us all down. Then, the President and First Lady came to meet us. They shook each of our hands between the acts. Barbara Bush was hilarious; she was amazing. She asked if anyone was from Texas, and everybody pointed to me. Five weeks later, we got an announcement from Barbara Bush's private secretary that she would like to invite us to The White House for breakfast. She served bagels and lox, and then she goes, "For my Texas girl, here's your southern breakfast." She had grits and all that sort of thing. She said, "If I wasn't the First Lady, I'd follow you around like groupies." It was really special for all of us involved. Now, we need to get George W. to Casa Mañana, so I can get the same picture shaking his hand [laughs].
Kyle: With as many shows as you've been in, there are bound to be some great onstage accidents. Can you recall any good stories of mistakes or mishaps while onstage?
Cheryl: Oh yeah [laughs]! On tour with THE SECRET GARDEN (with Audra McDonald), we had an explosion. It was a lighting board or something stage right...it literally exploded. Fire, sparks, everything! The stage manager made an announcement, and we all had to get off the stage. Something short-circuited and it was really scary!
Kyle: When you aren't onstage, what other activities interest you?
Cheryl: I love running, and I'm a huge tennis fan. I don't play, but I've been to Wimbledon and I go to the US Open all the time in New York. I've also become very involved in mental health awareness because of the film I just did. If someone came to me and told me I couldn't perform any more, onstage or in film, it would be hard, but I can imagine it. I could never be without music though.
Kyle: Once you're finished with your season at Casa Mañana, what is up next for you?
Cheryl: LES MISERABLES has me working through the end of June, and then the film, [NO LETTING GO], will be hitting a lot of the film festivals this fall. We'll see what's going to happen after that!
For more information on Chery's performances in Fort Worth, visit www.casamanana.org, or learn more about Cheryl at www.cherylallison.net!