BWW Interview: The 'Naturally Endearing' Ashley Gardner Carlson to Perform in ANYTHING GOES at Hale Center Theater Orem

BWW Interview: The 'Naturally Endearing' Ashley Gardner Carlson to Perform in ANYTHING GOES at Hale Center Theater Orem

Ashley Gardner Carlson is in an enviable position as an actor: She picks and chooses her stages.

She frequently illuminates the stage at Pioneer Theatre, a highly lauded company beyond its leading role as Northern Utah's only fully professional Actors' Equity company.

Carlson is about to play Reno Sweeney in ANYTHING GOES at Hale Center Theater in Orem, Utah.

HCTO is a community theater company 45 miles from her home, with 304 seats.

"The things they do at Hale Orem are incredible in such an intimate space," Carlson says. "It's always impressive. I also feel like the space lends to better acting because you're so close to the audience. You can't hide. You have to be good or the audience will definitely know. I think about the roles I can play that will better me as an actor. I don't ever want to do a project that I don't find difficult to begin with. When I audition for Hale Orem, that's probably my primary focus."

With a smile she adds: "This is my second show there in which I bow last. 'Hello Dolly' being the other." Her other HCTO credits include "Damn Yankees" (Lola), "Les Misérables" (Madame Thénardier), and "Catch Me If You Can" (Paula Abagnale). Carlson was "highly personable and naturally endearing" as Dolly Levi, according to the BroadwayWorld reviewer. "Each humorous line is thoughtfully delivered with warmth and light elegance."

"I look at everything when I choose to audition for a show anywhere," she explains. "The production team is a huge draw. Is it a team I have worked for before? Do I like them? If it's not a team I have already worked for, is it a team that I've always wanted to? Jenny Barlow is a fantastic choreographer. I'm pretty picky about choreographers because I want to be challenged when I dance and Jenny always does this. This is the first time I've worked with her as a director as well. But her attention to detail and story in her choreography gave me confidence that she would be equally impressive in directing."

The lead ANYTHING GOES role was also appealing to Carlson.

"Reno is a strong female lead. Played by the likes of Ethel Merman, Patti LuPone and most recently, Sutton Foster, Stephanie J. Block and Rachel York. She's a powerhouse. There are not many scripts that include a role for women to be as commanding and yet as endearing as Reno.

"Beyond all that, she's become a triple threat character thanks to Sutton. Prior to her, the other actresses were hired for their loud belt but not much else. Sutton turned it into a dancing lead. It takes a strong dancer as well to pull off what she has become. Not many female leads have his unique attribute."

The show is another attraction.

"ANYTHING GOES is entertainment at its very core. It's slapstick. It's vaudeville. It's big Broadway showstoppers," she says. "If you want to escape for two hours into an experience that was basically written as a vehicle for Cole Porter to showcase his songs, it's the perfect opportunity."

Although close, HCTO comes in at second place to PTC.

"I do perform a lot at PTC. I love it there. If I had to choose a theatre home, even though, I'm somewhat nomadic, PTC would probably be it. It's where I got most of my training, and I leave every show better than I was when I started. However, HCTO is a close second."

She summarizes: "I hope you and the audience enjoy the show. It's one of the most talented ensembles I've worked with in the valley and it's a good time. I promise."

And the cross-counties trek?

"The commute. I can't get enough of that I-15," she says, with a hearty laugh. "Just kidding."

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From This Author Blair Howell

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