BWW Review: Audrey Cardwell and Veronica Kuehn bring a BROADWAY NIGHT AT THE CABARET to Red Mountain Theatre Company
Red Mountain Theatre was recently host to an energetic celebration of musical theater directed by executive director Keith Cromwell. Broadway Night at the Cabaret was a fun performance by two young women who are no strangers to Broadway. Birmingham native Audrey Cardwell returns to the Red Mountain stage where she had her humble beginnings as a child in the RMTC Conservatory. Cardwell shares the stage with her talented and hilarious friend Veronica Kuehn. These two ladies met and became fast friends while performing Guys and Dolls at the Old Globe Theater in Boston.
Making the night even more special, the ladies were backed up by the impressive young performers in the RTMC Conservatory. These kids have the stage presence and skills of true professionals. The entertaining evening was filled with songs from classic and contemporary musicals. "Over the Rainbow","For the First Time in Forever", "I Don't Wanna Grow Up","Sound of Music", "Adelaide's Lament" and more. .
Cardwell is currently living in Los Angeles. She has worked extensively since her days the RMTC Conservatory Birmingham. Her impressive credits include the national tours of Cinderella, Elf: The Musical, and Anything Goes and two runs in Guys and Dolls. Cardwell in rehearsals now for the L.A. premiere of a new musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell called Starlight. She was excited by Cromwell's invitation to come back to Birmingham, and jumped at the chance to perform a few nights of cabaret. She shares that every time she steps back onto the stage where she got her start it is an amazing and emotional experience. "To be up there with the kids on stage where I once stood in the youth program is amazing. It is such a community that it really feels like just walking into my home".
Having a connection to Birmingham and the people that support her has been very important to Cardwell. Keith Cromwell is a mentor and friend to her since she was a child. She finds his past advice to be at constant play in her life and career. "I still have so many wonderful friends from the youth programs. I carry all the experiences I learned here with me all the time. I can still Keith's voice at certain times saying "Never wear flip flops or always arrive fifteen minutes early". She laughs with a smile at the sudden recall of joyful memories. "So yeah, Keith pretty much goes with me everywhere".
Her current project is a new musical by legendary comedian Steve Martin and Edie Brickell called musical Bright Star. She was able to give some details without giving too much away. It is a bluegrass musical set in North Carolina in the 1920s and 40s. "It is a story of a strong courageous woman who has had a tough hand dealt to her in life and what she does to navigate that. It's a story about redemption, love, and faith and trust. She is very enthusiastic in talking about the show and how it's a story that needs to be shared. "I really think a lot of audiences are going to relate to it and are going to love it. I'm more passionate about this show then I've ever been about any show I have ever done. There is something really special about this group of people and this show. And I am very excited to be a part of it.
During the show Cardwell gave much enthusiastic support for projects that empower women. "It's real and we need to keep talking about it". She comments that her business is still a male dominated industry. "Most of the time you are working with a male director, male choreographer, everything. Waitress is a wonderful exception for it has an all female creative team, such a good show". The role of a strong female lead is what led her to be in her upcoming show. "I love Bright Star because it's got a strong woman at the center of the story. Everything revolves around a strong courageous woman and we need more of that; rather than the strong leading man, we need to have strong leading woman". I share with her my friend Karen's observational gripe about roles that are pretty much a sitcom caricature of a "Kevin James wife"; pretty, thin and behind his lead. Cardwell laughs with agreement. "Exactly! You are the sidekick or a sidepiece to a man and that's not what I want to do".
Cardwell's voice is trained, full bodied and carries warmth. She at times tapped into real emotions that enhanced her performance. I asked what that feeling is like for her to drift into a song like that. "Getting that feeling is why I do what I do. It is an emotional release and celebration. It's so easy for me to step into the lyrics, I just melt into the song. It is kind of a religious experience, being up there is kinda like my church".
Veronia Kuehn comes to Birmingham for the first time and she had a blast in joining her friend on the Red Mountain stage. Kuehn hails from New Jersey and attended the Boston Conservatory. She has worked on Broadway in Mamma Mia! (Ali), Clinton The Musical (Monica) Off-Broadway productions of Avenue Q (Kate Monster/Lucy). She will be returning to Madison Square Garden this holiday season in the National Tour of Elf: The Musical (Jovie). She was excited that Audrey's invited her to join her for this show. "We were doing Guys and Dolls together in California and she mentions that her mentor growing up asked her back for a show. He asked if she knew anyone that would want to come and do it with her. She asked me and I thought it sounded great and its been so fun". The two have a natural and fun chemistry on stage. "We play to each other's strengths and support each other. She's got whole soprano thing and I don't really do that, but I do the funny". The two shared this connection while touring together. "We had such a great time together in Guys and Dolls. During rehearsals we were always laughing so much and goofing around. I jump at any excuse to share the stage with Audrey it is always great fun".
Kuehn has a killer voice and a very tuned sense of comedy. Her influences grew from her exposure as a kid to many classics. "Growing up I did watch a lot of I Love Lucy. I thought she was so funny. That sort of old school 50's comedy is my favorite". I started watching movie musicals, the kinds they do so often anymore like Kiss Me Kate, Funny Girl, Singing in the Rain. I like contemporary shows. I've done Momma Mia and Jukebox Musicals, Xanadu and stuff like that. But what I love, love, love is a full orchestra, horn section and strings. She seems to swoon just thinking about it. "I want to feel that music".
Kuehn smiles warmly when talking about her experience performing with the RMTC Conservatory. "It's been great. Keith has been fantastic. They are all so talented and had questions that showed they were interested and prepared to talk about it. These kids are getting great exposure to what its like to be a working actor, how to be professional as possible and how to be kind to each other. It's a really nice environment for them". She saw the great joy the kids had working with Cardwell. "Getting to see one of their alumni who is working and has some success to come back and support this community. I think is really important and I so thankful to be able to come be a part of it".
Red Mountain Theatre landed a hit with this cabaret performance. It was a true testament to the commitment and high caliber of talent in Birmingham. Thanks to Audrey Cardwell and Veronica Kuehn for sharing your gifts with the audience and the young performers at RMTC Conservatory. I look forward to the next local talent to return home to treat us again.
Red Mountain Theatre Company Presents
Broadway Night at the Cabaret
Directed by Keith Cromwell
Starring Audrey Cardwell, Veronica Kuehn
Featuring the RMTC Conservatory
Sept 28 -30 .