BWW Interview: Audrey Belle Adams of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at The Saenger Theatre
Get ready kids and former kids, for the most magical show we've had at the Saenger Theatre all season! CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is opening next week, and the cast is ready to take us on a journey to Willy Wonka's candy kingdom.
Here to tell us about her theatrical endeavors, her sweet and long-term relationship with this story, and what we can expect from this musical re-telling of Roald Dahl's enchanting tale is Audrey Belle Adams who plays Mrs. Gloop.
Tell me a little about yourself and when you first realized you wanted to be a performer professionally.
Ok, well I was born and raised in Louisville, KY, so I am a southern girl at heart. There wasn't really a choice for me. My parents met doing musical theatre in college, so I was born into the arts, which I'm so thankful for. My sister is also a producer and she was on Broadway, so I kind of just fell into the steps of this is what I was gonna do. I took dance and vocal training since I was 3, and it just kind of happened from there. It was never really a question that this was my passion and that I wanted to do this for my career, so I was very lucky that I had supportive parents and family who absolutely understood everything I was doing at all times. I grew up in the show biz. I grew up going to my mom and dad's dressing rooms every night as a kid and watching them put on their makeup. It was really special. I got to do so many shows with my parents and my sister, so it's really cool. I'm thankful that it happened that way.
Do you think that made it easier on you when you started looking for jobs, knowing the process of how the business works?
Oh my goodness, it helped so much. My sister really paved the way in New York for me of just having the connections and meeting all of these really awesome people and finding my manager. It really did. But, it's like a blessing and a curse when somebody knows everything because whenever you do one thing wrong you're like oh no! I definitely am very lucky with how well-versed my family was in the business and where I grew up of just the artistic community around me, especially in New York with my family being in the business. It helped so much.
Since you had that experience, what would you advise for those who are wanting to do theatre professionally, but don't really know where to start?
Yeah, that's a great question. I was very lucky with the resources that I grew up with in Kentucky. We had a performing arts high school. I went to the performing arts school for high school. That was a free education. It was a public school. And then in middle school being able to take choir all three years... it was so important to taking advantage if the school has artistic opportunities to take choir and to take drama and to take dance. Not everybody can afford going to a dance studio. Not everyone can afford going to a private voice teacher. The more and more that we can get the arts in schools, in public schools and just advocating for the arts and taking advantage of that and teaching kids to take advantage of that. I think it's very important. I love when I hear about elementary schools going to these orchestra concerts during the day, taking those field trips, and learning what those outreach programs of learning how to sit in a theatre and being quiet, learning etiquette. It's so important, and it all falls down to arts in the schools, and advocating for that. As long as we as this generation of adults are making it known to kids that this is important to learn at a young age, even if you don't do it as a career, but it teaches you so much about life.
I saw that you majored in vocal performance. How did you go about picking a program and a school that was right for you?
I was really set on doing musical theatre in college, and then of course I didn't get into my dream school and the world came crashing down. My choir teacher told me you really need to look into opera, I know you don't want to do it, but he's like I think you have a natural ability for it. I've always been a bigger voice. I'm a bigger girl, so I do have a more operatic tone. He was like I really think you should look into opera. I was like I really don't want to, but ok. And he was like yeah, but there's a lot of scholarships, so I was like ok. So, I actually auditioned at the University of Kentucky because they have such a wonderful program, and such a wonderful scholarship program. The Alltech company does a big competition every year for the top 10 auditionees, and I won one of the scholarships, and so I got a full ride and I couldn't say no. Then it turned out to be the absolute thing I needed to do in my life, so even when you don't get into your dream school it turns out you have another dream school and it's the one that actually wants you. As an 18 year old it's hard to realize that, but now looking back it's absolutely what I should've done, and I'm so thankful for that different kind of training because it made my journey a little bit more unique. You know?
Yes! There are so many people in this industry, and so many different ways you can get there, so your story is just another testament to that.
So, what was your audition process like for CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and how did you find out that you had landed your role in this tour?
Yay! Yeah, so I graduated in May of 2019, and moved up to New York in August of 2019. In late August, my manager called me and he was like there's a really great role for you for CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY that's about to go out on tour. And I was like, amazing! A couple of my friends saw the show and were like Audrey Belle you have to get in there for Mrs. Gloop, and I was like ok, ok. Then when he called me I was like oh man, I hope this is it. I went in for my initial appointment with the creative team. It was like 4 of the creative team, so it was a lot for an appointment. I did all of the material for Mrs. Gloop. I sang my song. I yodeled. I had my little braids in my hair. I did my scene. And then they said thank you, then I didn't hear anything until September. Got my callback, did my callback, did the exact same material. Then, I had my final callback at the end of September, and then the next week my manager called me. I was doing laundry at the laundromat, and he was like where are you, and I was like I'm in the laundromat, and he goes well this will be a great story you got it. So I was like YAY, and I was so excited and the poor ladies folding their laundry were like what's going on. I was so happy!
Well that's definitely a unique story! That's awesome.
It was funny, it was great.
What was your first experience with this story?
I love that you asked that! So I have a really special connection with this story. When I was in 6th grade... they wrote a different edition... it was WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY then... Music Theatre International (MTI) wrote another show. It was the world premiere of it, of this edition of WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and it was at Music Theatre Louisville, and I was cast as Violet and my dad was cast as the candy man. Unfortunately, my dad passed away three years ago, but we keep on saying that the candy man was up to it all. It's just special because it was one of the first lead roles professionally that I had, and my dad was a part of it. It was really special that it happened that way, so it's always been so near and dear to my heart, this story and being a part of it... it's been a part of my life for a long time.
Since there's now a newer version of this story being told with this tour, what are some of those differences or new elements that we can look out for?
The set is unreal, and the costumes. I think they just really grasped what Roald Dahl really wanted for this. It was a really long process of getting the rights and getting it right to what Roald Dahl's estate wanted. It's a long process, and so I mean the technical elements of going into the mixing room and seeing the glass elevator that everyone knows from the 1971 film, you still get all those aspects, but they're just live on stage. It's so special. We have a lot of projections that just add such beauty. It's not overdone. It's perfect to what our graphic designers did for this show. It's really amazing, so you're still getting the story that everyone loves and everyone knows, but it's just so colorful and so much heart on that stage and it's just so beautiful to look at. It's just enhancing the story even more.
As kids we tend to look at this story through Charlie's eyes. You looked at the story through Violet's eyes when you were in the other edition, from a kid's perspective. What's it been like for you now coming at this story from an adult perspective?
Yeah, that's a great question. It is kind of crazy that I'm playing a mom at 23, but you know, especially with Mrs. Gloop, it's been so interesting with this character because I talk about it with my mom. Mrs. Gloop is not a bad mom. She's just gluttonous, and she loves her son, and she thinks her son is God's gift to Earth, which I think a lot of parents relate to these days of just thinking their child is perfect and their child is the best. In a difference between the other parents, you don't hate Mrs. Gloop. It's not that, it's just that the love is a lot, and it's overbearing a little bit. But, it's not dangerous. It's still loveable, and it's funny, and they did a great job of lighting all the parents up as still having redeeming qualities. It's showing that if you are gluttonous, if you do want to make a lot of money, if you do want to be a social media star, what comes with that. We put this show kind of into... it's timeless, but... we put it more into the current day of the 21st century with Violet being an Instagram star, and Mike Teaveee being on his iPad at all times. We've made it very current to today. It's helped me realize what kind of parent I want to be one day. It's been fun to explore my character more as a parent, and why Augustus is the way he is, and why what happens to Augustus happens. It's just because he's gluttonous and doesn't follow the rules, so that's what happened. It's been interesting seeing it through the parents' eyes for sure, but knowing that you're not a bad person. It's just bad things happen when you don't follow the rules.
Are there any characters in the show that if you had your way about it you would love to switch with for a day?
Oh my gosh, we talk about this all the time! We talk about this all the time. I would love to be Willy Wonka for a day or I would love to be Mrs. Teavee. Mrs. Teavee is one of the funniest written characters I have seen especially with Katie Fay Francis who plays her. I mean, it is just so funny and so fun and exactly what it needs to be. It's just one of those perfectly written roles. And, of course I would love to play Willy Wonka just because, I mean, he's hilarious and also just the most heartwarming person in the show. I could never do it how Cody Garcia does it, but we've talked about it. That's so funny that you asked that because we talk about that all the time. And we just love the songs. We love each other's songs. We love them.
Are there songs from the movies or the previous productions that are still incorporated into this show?
Oh yeah, for sure. So you've still got "I've Got A Golden Ticket," you've still got "The Candy Man," you still have "The Oompa Loompa Song," but we added a lot. Marc Shaiman really outdid himself with just all of the music, and it is so fascinating because I did study opera I'm so in tune with the composition part. And just the way that Marc Shaiman was able to write so many different styles of music and made it all cohesive is phenomenal. The music is so fun, and everyone has their own theme, and that's what's fun about it. You hear it throughout the entr'acte and the overture. You hear it all for all the themes for all the characters. It's so well done, and then on top of that he mixes it with "Golden Ticket," "The Candy Man," "Pure Imagination." It's all there, he just added more songs that made it even more fun, and it doesn't take away. It just adds for sure.
Well we certainly can't wait to have you here in New Orleans. This is a story that so many people know and love, and I think everything you've just said is going to get people excited to come see the show.
Good! Well, there's still tickets left! It's selling very well, but there are still tickets left for the Saenger Theatre for sure, and we're all so excited to come to New Orleans. It's gonna be so much fun, and I think it's been very well received so I hope that everyone loves it in New Orleans just as much as everywhere. My favorite thing about this show is that even when we were in Miami or in El Paso a lot of people primarily speak Spanish, and it still doesn't matter. It still translates. The story still translates no matter what so I think that's what I've loved seeing touring. Even if English isn't a lot of people's first language, it still doesn't take away from the beauty of the show and the heart of the show. I'm really excited for everyone to see it in New Orleans, and we cannot wait to be there!
Snag a golden ticket, and come check out Audrey Belle Adams and the cast of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY opening at the Saenger Theatre on February 11. I will be there, and hope to see you, too! Visit www.saengernola.com for tickets and more information.