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BWW Interviews: Audrey Cardwell of CINDERELLA at Music Hall At Fair Park And Bass Performance Hall

Photo by Stephanie Girard Photography

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking wiht Audrey Cardwell from the national tour of CINDERELLA. Although she typically appears in the show's ensemble, Audrey has been performing the title role during another actress' extended break from the show. When the production arrives in town (performing both at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas, and Bass Performance Hall in Forth Worth) audiences will catch her performance as one of the three roles she's rehearsed and ready to play. To read more about Audrey, including her challenges of catching a safe ride to the royal palace, read our interview, below:

Name: Audrey Cardwell

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Current Role: Ensemble, frequent understudy to Ella (Cinderella) and Gabrielle

Kyle Christopher West: Growing up, what first inspired you to perform?

Audrey: I started dancing when I was five years old. My mom was a single mom and she said, "I can either take you to daycare, or I can take you to dance," so my sister and I grew up dancing. We [also] grew up watching movie musicals: OKLAHOMA!, THE MUSIC MAN, CAROUSEL. We would basically have them on repeat at the house, and we would sing and dance. That's probably what first inspired me; and then we started doing community theatre. But, it was definitely all the old movie musicals that was the inspiration growing up.

Kyle: Before performing professionally, did you play any memorable roles?

Audrey: In high school, we did SEUSSICAL and all the classic high school productions. When I was in college, I played Peter Pan, and that will always be one of my dearest experiences. It was really, really magical and super fun. I have so many amazing memories, and to play that character was such a dream.

Kyle: I also noticed that you performed with Dallas Summer Musicals in THE LITTLE MERMAID not long ago, and I imagine you may have come through town on tour with ANYTHING GOES or ELF. Is there anything that stands out from your time here in town?

Audrey Cardwell (center, in pink) in THE LITTLE MERMAID
with Dallas Summer Musicals.

Audrey: They were pretty short visits but, honestly, the southern hospitality is something I always look forward to. Being a southerner myself, it really is different: the way people talk to you, and the way you can hold a conversation with a complete stranger...that only happens in the South [laughs.] It makes me feel right at home! We're in Dallas for two weeks, and then we go to Fort Worth. I've never been to Fort Worth; I'm so excited!

Kyle: Jumping ahead, I understand you are currently playing Cinderella, but you typically play another role in the show. What can you tell me about the different characters you play?

Audrey: I rehearsed and am normally in the ensemble, as one of the dancers, and I understudy Cinderella and Gabrielle, one of the stepsisters. Our Ella had to take a little leave-of-absence, and I moved in to the role of Ella. I think this is my fifth week, but she [Paige Faure, who typically plays the role] will be back soon. To step into your understudy track is rare, so this has been, honestly, just an absolute dream come true. I love this role and I love this show! Every day I pinch myself.

Kyle: What can you tell me about the experience of understudying such an iconic role? Have there been any unique challenges when stepping into the glass slipper at the last minute?

Audrey: To begin with, it's a pretty daunting role. I've always wanted to do the math to determine how much she's not on stage [laughs.] I think it's maybe 5 minutes, because she's always running around and she's always on stage. Then, knowing that people come to the show having seen Julie Andrews or Leslie Ann Warren, or seeing the cartoon 14 times, it's hard because everyone has their opinion on what Cinderella should be. The beautiful thing about our show is that we've really flushed out Ella...we call her Ella. She's got much more to her than just there pretty face and wanting to marry the price. It's much deeper than some of the other versions have been, thanks to Douglas Carter Beane who wrote the new script of this show, which opened on Broadway in 2013. I personally have to let go of the ideas of Cinderella people may have. I respect the ladies who have played Cinderella before, but I also know I can only come in and play Ella with the facilities that I have. I can't play Julie Andrews' Ella; I can't play Paige Faure's Ella. That's a challenge as an understudy; you have to say, "Okay. I'm going to do the show you do, but I can only do it as me." I just have to come in knowing what I can do, knowing what I bring to the table, and hoping that's enough to take the audience on a journey. Sorry, that was really, really long [laughs].

Kyle: As you mentioned, this version of the show has some exciting changes in both its script and score. How have audiences around the country responded to the new show?

Audrey: Everyone responds really positively, truthfully. Now, we have this woman who we perceive is the perfect princess; however, in our show, we see that she's just a young girl trying to figure out her life and herself. Everybody can relate to that. She's been through so much in her life already that she feels beaten down and walked all over. I think everyone, in some sense, can relate to that: a struggle in their life. Now [in this new version of the show], Cinderella is so relatable, and the same goes for the Prince. He's not this perfect archetype of a man. He doesn't know everything yet; he's still figuring out his own way. There's also so many magical, fun, funny elements that have been added to the show, and there's costume changes onstage, which everybody loves.

Kyle: When I saw the show in New York, I couldn't get over how impressive Ella's onstage costume change before the ball was. Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

Audrey: It's actually right after those transformations. The Fairy Godmother is sending Ella off to the ball. She says ,"Go, with the promise of possibility," and that is my absolute favorite line, and my favorite moment in the show. You're still reeling from the excitement of her transformation, and you have the ball to look forward to. In that moment, playing Ella, so much has just happened, and so much is about to happen, you're just waiting in the balance of excitement. It's thrilling to do, and to watch when I'm not playing Ella. It's just a simple moment and a simple line, which I think carries the message of our show.

Kyle: In all of your experience, can you remember any onstage mishaps or mistakes?

Audrey: Oh yes! On opening night [of CINDERELLA] in Chicago, Paige (our Ella) was so sick, but she was going to try to power through because it was media night and everyone was there. I actually got thrown into Ella right after "In My Own Little Corner." I was in my ensemble track, and I had to make a quick change in the middle of the show. That night, there was so much adrenaline and so much was happening that I was trying to step into the carriage, but I couldn't. I ended up riding in the carriage, squatting on my knees. I couldn't stand up because I had tripped on my dress [and] my feet were caught. Rather than sitting in the seat, I was on the floor of the carriage on my knees because I tripped!

Kyle: How long are you with CINDERELLA, and what's next for you?

Audrey: As a member of the ensemble, we don't have definite dates. I currently don't have anything planned after. I am just enjoying my time here in the forest! To share a little bit of personal life, my boyfriend [Andy Huntington Jones] is the Prince, so we are out here together. For us to be in the same place and working the same job is super, super rare in this business. Neither of us are in a hurry to think about what's next because this just seems so awesome right now. It's stupid how awesome it is [laughs]!

For tickets and more informatoin, visit http://cinderellaonbroadway.com/



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From This Author - Kyle West

Kyle Christopher West is obsessed with the arts. Growing up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Kyle trained as a gymnast and dancer where he performed across the East Coast in productions of West Side Sto... (read more about this author)


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