Interview: Christina Freeman in ELLA ENCHANTED at The Growing Stage in Netcong

Christina Freeman in ELLA ENCHANTED

By: Nov. 27, 2023
Interview: Christina Freeman in ELLA ENCHANTED at The Growing Stage in Netcong

The Growing Stage (TGS), The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey continues their season in December with a holiday treat for the entire family, Ella Enchanted, The Musical.  Based on the Newberry Honor book by Gail Carson Levine, the show has a book and lyrics by Karen Zacarias with music by Deborah Wicks La Puma. The production is directed by TGS’s Director of Educational Programming, Lori B. Lawrence.  

In the story, Ella of Frell is given the “gift” of obedience by Lucinda, her misguided Fairy Godmother, and is forced to do anything people command her. On her adventure to rid herself of the curse, she must outwit ogres, sidestep giants, befriend a prince, survive her step-family, and ultimately find the power to be her true self.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Freeman who plays Olive in Ella Enchanted.  She informed us about her career and the upcoming show at The Growing Stage.

Christina is thrilled to make her TGS mainstage debut! As a child, Christina participated in the TGS summer program for nine years, then went on to work as a TGS camp counselor for four years, and perform in multiple Studio Series shows, including A Wrinkle in Time (Assistant Director), The Three Musketeers (the Queen), and Through the Looking Glass (the Red Queen). Past regional credits include The Drowsy Chaperone (Janet Van De Graaf), The Fantasticks (Luisa), Clue (Mrs. Peacock), Seussical (Mayzie), Big Fish (the Witch), and Blood Brothers (Mrs. Lyons). Off-Broadway credits include 54 Sings Big Fish and 54 Sings Holiday Inn (Ensemble). Christina holds a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Psychology and two minors in Music and Philosophy from Muhlenberg College.

Who was the very first person to recognize your theatrical talent?

It was the director of Brightest Star’s production of “Peter Pan” (one of the first musicals I performed in when I was in third grade)! She commented to my mom about how quickly I could go off book not only for my roles, but for the entire script. At the same time that I was in “Peter Pan,” I was also performing as Charlotte in “Charlotte’s Web” in the third grade play and also got asked to perform as Maid Marian in “Robin Hood” for the fourth grade play. When my mom told this to the director for “Peter Pan,” she told my mom “that’s a gift.” 

We'd love to know a little about your education at Muhlenberg College and how it has influenced your career.

Sure! I feel that my professional acting career has been greatly influenced by two theatre professors I studied with at Muhlenberg College: Leticia Robles Moreno and Jim VanValen. I had my first college theatre class with Leticia, who opened my eyes to unconventional and experimental theatre (which I am very passionate about), and Jim taught me Meisner and Solo Performance. Jim was also my advisor for my Independent Theatre Study where I wrote, directed, and performed in my own one woman show “Miraculous Things” during my final semester of college. I am so grateful to both of these professors for being wonderful role models and mentors and helping me establish a solid foundation for my acting career with these amazing opportunities.

You have been on a great journey with The Growing Stage. Why do you think that children's theatre is so important?

I think children’s theatre is important because kids need to have a place where they can dream, play, and be kids! That’s what children’s theatre is all about: creativity, imagination, and fun! I believe that children’s theatre is a place where children can explore their range of emotions in a fun, healthy, and safe way and feel seen and accepted. It’s important that children have these opportunities and be cultured in the arts (whether it be from performing on the stage, working behind the scenes, or watching from the audience) so that they can be exposed to other people’s stories, explore exciting new worlds with fun, interesting characters, and practise putting themselves in other people’s shoes. By doing all of this, children can learn morals from these stories and characters that can help them develop a number of positive traits (kindness, open-mindedness, compassion, etc.) that will help them for the rest of their life.

What have been a few of the exciting roles you have had the opportunity to play and why?

The lead roles I’ve done this year (Luisa from “The Fantasticks” and Janet Van De Graaf from “The Drowsy Chaperone”) are really special to me. Luisa was my dream role since I was 16 when I was first introduced to “The Fantasticks” by Stephen Fox, a music director at the Growing Stage! When I listened to the music for the first time, I instantly fell in love with Luisa’s character; she is this free-spirited, determined, energetic, young girl who, upon learning about all the new freedoms she has as a teenager, makes it her goal to live life to the fullest with no limits. She was an absolute joy to play; I love her very much. Janet was also a dream to play; she is this lovely, sweet woman who happens to be a natural, talented star. I would say Janet is the character I am the most proud to have played because Janet is a true triple threat. It was really exciting to rise up to the challenge of doing intense numbers like “Show Off” where I had to sing, act, dance, and do a series of crazy stunts all at the same time. Also, I think “Bride’s Lament” is one of my favourite music theatre numbers I’ve ever done. The drama! The glamour! The belting! The monkeys! It was pure chaotic fun to perform! 

Tell us a little about the team for Ella Enchanted!

This cast and crew has been “wonderfully fun” to work with! Melinda, our music director, has done a fabulous job teaching us beautiful, complex melodies and everyone sounds incredible. Thanks to Cari, we have wonderful, eye-catching dance numbers that are bound to leave you spellbound! Matthew, our stage manager, has been working hard behind the scenes to make sure that everything functions and works like clockwork. Lori is an amazing director who has helped bring this whole story to life on stage in a fun, rewarding way. Lastly, our child and adult actors are extremely talented and hardworking, and everyone is a pleasure to work with. I can’t wait for our audiences to see what we have been brewing together these past couple of weeks and to finally share this story with you all! 

What are some of the challenges of playing Olive in Ella Enchanted?

Comedic timing for sure is one! Olive is arguably the comedic relief in this show (given all of the hardships that Ella goes through), so it’s important that I have good delivery with my comedic lines to help bring some laughter, especially during tense scenes with me, Hattie, and Ella. Another thing is making sure that the audience sees me and my evil sister, Hattie, not as two evil individuals, but as one person (a hive mind). It’s been a lot of fun working with Meg Foley, who plays Hattie, about making choices that best portray the two of us sharing a brain (Hattie being the mastermind and Olive being her little minion). We have done a lot of playing around with what feels right, and I’m excited for the audience to see what we have come up with for this evil stepsister duo! 

What would you like audiences to know about the show?

I think that it would be helpful for audiences to know that the musical is based off of the book, “Ella Enchanted,” by Gail Carson Levine more so than the movie (fun fact: the movie and the book are very different from one another). For those of you who have read the book, you’ll be happy to know that the musical is very in line with the book (it even takes direct lines from it)! For those of you who only know the movie, you’re in for a delightful treat in learning more about the original story. And for those of you who don’t know anything about “Ella Enchanted,” I think it would be helpful for you to know that this is a family friendly show and great for anyone of any age to see. You could be a child or an adult and you’d enjoy the show because it’s a great story with a great message that I think anyone can relate to and/or be inspired by! 

Can you share with us any of your future plans?

Yes! I am thrilled that I will be resuming performances with Bob Egan Entertainment, spotting myself in the upcoming “Mean Girls” musical comedy film (I was a background actor for this production), and continuing to audition and look for more live theatre opportunities!

You can follow Christina Freeman on Instagram and Tik Tok @christina.lee.freeman 

Ella Enchanted, The Musical will be performed from December 1 through December 17.  The Growing Stage is located at The Historic Palace Theatre, 7 Ledgewood Avenue, Netcong, NJ  07857. For ticketing and more information, visit  https://growingstage.com/ and call 973-347-4946.

Photo Credit: Matt Simpkins



Videos