How many people can say that they’ve had the opportunity to meet and speak with a princess? Well, if you’re talking about the likes of Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton, very few in the Milwaukee have likely been granted the privilege of a personal meeting. But if you’re talking about a princess that you could find in a family-friendly theme park, then you’ve likely had some sort of encounter with royalty – at least of the kind you find in fairy tales.
Fortunately, travelling to Florida or California isn’t the only way to encounter fairy tale princesses. That’s one of the many great things a Broadway stage can provide. If a trip to Disney World doesn’t happen to be on your weekend agenda, Brew City residents still have the chance to spend time with royalty, as "Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella," the world’s most enviable makeover story, is back in town (arriving in a pumpkin carriage, no doubt) this Saturday and Sunday.
I had the opportunity to chat with Kaitlyn Mayse, the actress who will bring the repressed stepchild turned princess to life this weekend at the Miller High Life Theatre. Her recent stage credits include some pretty impressive roles, such as Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast" (Belle), "Into the Woods" (Rapunzel), "1776" (Martha Jefferson) and "Oklahoma" (Ensemble/Swing). Here's a glimpse of our enchanting conversation.
OnMilwaukee: Tell me about your background as an actress.
Kaitlyn Mayse: I grew up in St. Louis, began dancing around the age of four and did my first musical in first grade as a munchkin in a high school's production of "The Wizard of Oz." I gradually started letting go of sports teams and other activities in order to perform in shows and to begin vocal training. As I continued to perform, it quickly became apparent that I could have no greater passion than for the stage, and so I auditioned for several collegiate musical theater programs. I graduated from Indiana University-Bloomington's BFA program in 2016 and cannot believe how lucky I am that I've been able to turn my passion into a career.
How does it feel to play such an iconic role?
Simultaneously overwhelming and terrifying and thrilling and humbling. To be following in the footsteps of greats like Julie Andrews is insanely wonderful, but even more importantly, the responsibility of spreading this message of kindness to audiences – especially the little ones – is a huge honor.
What is the audition process like for a show and a role of this caliber?
Very long. I actually started out as an ensemble member and understudy to Ella on the most recent leg of the tour. I went in to different dance calls and to read and sing for the creative team a total of 14 times before I landed that track. Skip forward several months later and the producers and creatives were coming to see me go on as Ella to consider me for the role for the current leg. I have never been so nervous for a show in my entire life, but I guess it went well!
What are some of the highlights of being a part of a touring company for a Broadway show? What are the biggest challenges that come with being on the road so often?
This experience is truly like none other. I have made lifelong friends and learned so much about myself as a performer and as a person. I've been able to visit so many wonderful places around the country and share a beautiful message and wear gorgeous, Tony-winning costumes. What a dream!
A big challenge on the road is remaining healthy. You're constantly traveling and don't often get to establish a routine. I try my best to stay up on my vitamins and exercise, to eat healthy and to get lots of good sleep, but it can be trying when you're continually moving around.
How does this musical, which started out as a made-for-television musical in 1957, successfully translate to the stage?
Well, first, many songs have been added to make the show a full-length musical. The big dance numbers and vibrant costumes make a truly fantastic spectacle for live audiences. I think the biggest factor, however, is that we all get to experience the magic and beauty together, patrons and performers. Instead of being separated by a screen, we're all in the same room, telling or listening to a story that will never be quite the same twice.
Is there a moment or a song in the show that you are particularly proud of or especially enjoy performing?
I really enjoy any of the scenes I get to do with the Prince. Lukas is a wonderful actor and an even lovelier person. I love the moments we find every night, and the quirks and nuances our particular takes on the characters have individually and as a couple.
How does this interpretation of the beloved fairytale translate to modern times?
I think we can all use more kindness and joy in our world, and this Cinderella gives you just that. It's still the classic tale you know and love, but with a fresh twist. You won't see two-dimensional fairy tale archetypes in this version; every character is fleshed out and real and relevant to today.
What do you hope audience members walk away with after they see "Cinderella" at the Miller High Life Theatre this weekend?
Charity, generosity and kindness will get you far, and to go with the promise of possibility!