BWW Interviews: Abigail Shapiro Talks A LITTLE PRINCESS at 54 BELOW
At the age of 14, actress Abigail Shapiro is quite the busy lady. With credits like Cindy Lou Who in DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICAL and the titular character in LIBERTY: A MONUMENTAL NEW MUSICAL under her belt, she is currently gearing up to portray Sarah Crewe in a special cabaret presentation of Andrew Lippa's musical A LITTLE PRINCESS, which is based on the 1905 children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Recently, she and I sat down to discuss this exciting, new cabaret event.
I know that Sarah Crewe is a dream role of yours. What is it like getting to prepare for A LITTLE PRINCESS at 54 BELOW?
Abigail Shapiro: Well, it's actually extremely exciting. We actually just got the first draft of the cabaret version of the script, and I've been reading it over and over. I'm just so excited to be living my dream.
What is like getting to work with composer Andrew Lippa, since he is also going to be in the show as a character as well?
Abigail Shapiro: It's amazing! He has always been one of the people who I've looked up to since I was eleven, and it's just a dream come true.
How exciting is it to bring A LITTLE PRINCESS to 54 Below, a venue that you're already familiar with performing in?
Abigail Shapiro: Extremely exciting. I couldn't be more excited. We've gotten some of the cast so far, and we are just all so excited to be doing this.
What is it about A LITTLE PRINCESS that you like? Is it the story? The music?
Abigail Shapiro: I really like the story, and I love the music. It's beautiful. I'm just in love with the music. That is one of my favorite parts of the entire show. That's why I am in love with that show.
You performed one of the songs from the show in the cabaret that I saw this summer, and there is at least one the CD you and your sister released. Are there other songs, other than those that you get excited about? Or are those two your favorite?
Abigail Shapiro: There are other songs that I get excited about. Those two are the songs where Sarah has a solo, and that is why we did them at our cabaret. I just love that music so much, it's amazing.
The book is over a hundred years old. What is it about that story that you think still interests someone in 2014?
Abigail Shapiro: It's a children's book, actually, and it tells the story of a girl who has everything that you could possibly wish for. Her father is rich, and she is a good person too. She is not just caught up in her money and everything. In the book, her father actually dies, but in the musical her father doesn't die. But in the book her father dies, and she has nothing. She is left to work as a maid. She kind of loses confidence. She mostly tries to maintain it throughout the story, which is fascinating because if you're just to left to work as a maid for the rest of your life, and that's all that the future holds for you, you would be brought down and negative. Well, she was negative about it, but then her confidence comes back, and that's just really inspiring to everybody to stay confident.
A lot of people get too caught up in the title, and they think that it is going to be a stupid book. But it's not. It's actually really good. I cried. That was one of the first books I cried in.
What was the casting process like for the kid roles in the A LITTLE PRINCESS?
Abigail Shapiro: Okay, so Van Dean, who is producing it, and I called up some children that we knew. There's only like five or six children in the cast because it's a cabaret, and it has to be small. Any more than that number wouldn't be able to fit on the stage. [Laughs] It's actually really cool to see what goes on behind the scenes, and what goes on in the casting process. So, Van and I called some kids and asked them to send in some video auditions, and we sent them to Andrew, Brian, and the rest of the creative team. They chose who they would like to participate in the cabaret.
With Andrew Lippa working on the project too, is he reworking anything other than the book for the cabaret format?
Van Dean: I know that they were trying new things because they're, you know, interested in the show having a future, but I think they're still figuring that out.
Abigail Shapiro: Yeah. For the cabaret we're having a narrator so that the message comes across a little easier because we only have 70 minutes. The actual show is two hours. We're having a narrator, so we don't do the dialogue and everything.
What is your favorite part about performing at 54 Below?
Abigail Shapiro: It has a very homey feeling, and it's not too big. You can kind of just talk to the audience when you're having your own cabaret there. It's a beautiful venue; it looks kind of like an old-fashioned theatre.
You just finished working on LIBERTY. What was that project like?
Abigail Shapiro: I was actually not expecting to get the role because it was originally going to be for somebody twenty years old. So, that was really exciting. I auditioned for one of the child roles in the musical, and then they asked me to come in for Liberty. That was amazing. I love the show too.
I really don't know much about it. Tell me what's it all about.
Abigail Shapiro: It's about the Statue of Liberty, how the Statue of Liberty came to be, and just the journey she made. Basically, just what she stands for.
I know that you are also in school, so how are you balancing multiple shows with school and everything else?
Abigail Shapiro: Well, I go to the Professional Children's School. They have this guided study program for when you're on-site or doing a show, and it's very helpful. That's mostly how I've managed to get all of my schoolwork caught up and everything. You just have to stay organized. That's the number one priority.
What is going to happen after LITTLE PRINCESS? Are there any other projects that you can talk about?
Abigail Shapiro: Right now, I don't really know anything, but I would like to do a LIBERTY cast recording. [Laughs] The LIBERTY producers are setting up a funding campaign "to raise liberty to the height she deserves!" Sorry, I just stole a line from the show. [Laughs] So, that might actually be a possibility.
Awesome! Like a Kickstarter-type thing?
Abigail Shapiro: Yeah
54 BELOW, located at 254 West 54th Street, New York, 10019, will be presenting the cabaret adaptation of Andrew Lippa's A LITTLE PRINCESS, with book and lyrics by Brian Crawley and directed by Moises Kauffman, for two performances only. The first is on Monday, December 8, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. and the second is on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://54below.com/ or call (646) 476-3551.