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BWW Interview: Sarah Charles Lewis on Her Magical TUCK EVERLASTING Experience at the Alliance Theatre

Sarah <a href=Not many 10-year-olds these days get starring roles in brand new world premiere musicals alongside Tony nominees, but Sarah Charles Lewis is the exception. With a contagious energy and bubbly personality, Lewis was just about to burst with excitement as she told me all about working with Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw, performing to sold-out crowds at the prestigious Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and living her dream as Winnie Foster in TUCK EVERLASTING.

How has TUCK EVERLASTING been so far?

It's going really great! I mean, the show has been a lot of fun. We just had a matinee today, a school matinee, so after the show we got to see all the students.

And did they seem to love it?

Yes, they did! And after the show, they were like, screaming so much! They were standing, a standing ovation, and they were screaming so loud! It was like a really good feeling. It was crazy. And it was really packed, too.

Did it make you feel like a star?

[Laughs] Yes, it was really good. And then at the end, when I walked out, they clapped so loud, and I'm the last one out, so it was the best feeling to really get to experience that amazing feeling when you walk out and they clap just for you.

It gets me really excited when we have a school matinee, because I think to myself, "They read the books, and so I need to think about being Winnie Foster even more!" It's very interesting to see where they laugh and cry, or where they clap. It's really fun, because it's kids too, so it's different where they laugh and cry. And it's fun too when you don't know when they're gonna clap, because today in the serious ballet, they started clapping and laughing at a random spot, and during the question and answer, we were like, "What were you laughing at?" And they were laughing because of the kissing in the ballet!

So since the audiences are so unpredictable for student shows, do you feel like you perform a little differently for them?

No, it's just that when they respond, like, at a funny part where Jesse accidentally shoots Angus Tuck, they just kept on laughing for like, two minutes or something, and I felt like cracking up because they were laughing so hard for so long. So it was really different, it was really fun, and it felt good, too because they laughed for a long time.

And in one of our Q&As last week, [laughs] a person asked, "What do you do to energize yourself before the show?" and someone in the cast said, "We peel stuff!" because I'd taught them a warm-up where you pretend to peel carrots and potatoes and bananas and stuff, and then we started bursting into it, "And you peel a carrot, peel, peel, a carrot!"

Besides peeling fruits and vegetables, what else do you do before the show to get into character as Winnie instead of Sarah?

Well, usually on my way to the theatre in my car from my house, I spend that time warming up my voice, a long warm-up. And when I walk up the stairs to the stage. I get focused. I pray every day when the announcements are saying over the loud speaker, "The show will begin in one minute." I just start praying, thanking God for this amazing opportunity and letting Him know He's guiding me in this show.

What's been your favorite thing about being in TUCK EVERLASTING so far?

Well, it being a world premiere is a lot of fun, because I get to create Winnie Foster, and it's never been done as a show, and it's a world premiere, and they're changing stuff. So when I accidentally said "And" in lines that I say, or when I accidentally said something in my line that the writer didn't write, the writer would say, "Hey, I like that better," and he would change it. So I created a line! And I thought to myself, "Wow, I just created a line that will go down in history." So it being a world premiere has just been a blast. And the cast, and the director Casey Nicholaw, all these Broadway stars, I mean, it's such an amazing experience.

Andrew Keenan Bolger, Sarah Charles Lewis
Photo by Greg Mooney

So going into the show, did you already recognize some of the names of the people you've been working with?

Yeah! My brother and my mom saw Andrew [Keenan-Bolger] in New York in NEWSIES, and my brother told me all about him, so we were familiar with him, and my mom's familiar with Terrence Mann, because she saw him in the original CATS, and we knew of Casey Nicholaw because of ALADDIN on Broadway.

What has it been like to work with Casey Nicholaw?

A dream come true! I mean, to know that he did ALADDIN, and to know that he did all these Broadway shows... It's crazy because, he teaches me, you know, the script, when he directs the show, he makes it more fun than you would imagine it to be, because he's funny and so nice and so amazing. He gets things out of you that you didn't know you could do. And he figures out cool things, like, he thought of the turntable, I mean, that's an amazing thought to even think about. He has this big mind. He trusts his actors and if you feel like you want to do something different, he lets you. Like, I have to do a cartwheel when I have a music box in my hand, and we didn't know what to do with it because I didn't have a pocket or anything, so I said, "Well I can just do the cartwheel with the music box in my hand." And he said, "Are you sure Sarah? Are you sure you positive?" And I said, "I'm positive!" and he trusted me!

And opening night was so magical! I prayed a long time before opening night, because I knew it was going to be a magical night, and that Natalie Babbit was going to be there. She wrote the book, and I got to meet her. It was just so amazing! I mean, she's Natalie Babbit! So I was just thinking, "I really hope I'm what she imagined!" And she told me I'm more than she imagined, and that made me really happy. It was a magical moment.

The Alliance Theatre's TUCK EVERLASTING runs through February 22 at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. Tickets start at $25 and are available at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office in person or by calling 404.733.5000. Tickets are also available online at www.alliancetheatre.org/tuckeverlasing. Discounted rates for groups of 10 or more are available by calling 404.733.4690.

TUCK EVERLASTING is brought to life on stage in a wholly original production, featuring a book by Tony Award nominee Claudia Shear (Dirty Blonde), music by Chris Miller (The Burnt Part Boys), lyrics by Nathan Tysen (The Burnt Part Boys), and direction and choreography by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spamalot).

Based on the beloved best-selling novel by Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting is an exhilarating story about everlasting love, never-ending life, and discovering what it means to truly feel alive.

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