How did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 4. I grew up in Tampa, FL at a little dance studio called Frank Rey Dance Studio. My mom had actually grown up dancing there and then became the owner in 2001. It’s been open since 1954. She enrolled me in dance classes, and I basically grew up there and continued training through high school.
Was your mother a professional performer?
No, she never really had an interest in pursuing it professionally. She’s a high school teacher, and she has always loved that. But she always loved dancing. It was a hobby that she was very passionate about. She quickly realized that we shared that same passion and that it was something I really wanted to pursue. I think she sort of lives vicariously through me [laughs].
What made you decide that you wanted to dance?
Aside from dance, I was always singing. I grew up listening to Whitney Houston and Tina Turner and would put on little concerts for my family. For a while I wanted to be a pop singer. Then I started loving dance more and more. By the time I was mid-elementary school age, I discovered what musical theatre was. I had started seeing all of the touring musical productions that would come through Tampa. My mom would also take me to New York City a lot. I would take class at Broadway Dance Center and Steps and saw lots of musicals. I wanted to sing and dance, and I could do that with musical theatre.
Where did you go to school?
I went to college at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Funny story—I actually got my degree in English literature. I auditioned for the musical theatre program but didn’t get into it—two years in a row. I didn’t want to be a dance major because I could take enough dance classes as a non-major. The dance classes were great, and the dance program was very welcoming to me, so I was fortunate enough to perform in a lot of dance concerts at FSU as a non-major. I kept taking dance and voice lessons consistently throughout college but never got cast in any of the musicals. But when I graduated in 2012, I came up to New York to pursue performing. I was constantly auditioning even while I was still in school—but once I got to New York, I really auditioned like crazy. A month after graduation, I booked the national tour of Shrek the Musical, my first professional job out of school. It was sort of the best way to throw me into the professional theatre world.
I chose to study English lit because I just happened to really enjoy it. I took so many interesting classes, and I loved being in that academically stimulating environment. For me, it was nice to have a little outlet, a bit of normalcy, if you will, outside of the arts bubble. Because I was an English literature major, I feel like I appreciated things more—I loved the dance classes I took, I loved my voice teacher. It honestly made me want to pursue performing even more. If anything, it drove me to work harder, because I knew that pursuing this career wasn’t necessarily going to be easy or laid out for me.
Tell me about your first move to the city.
I was planning on moving to New York right after college, but I really set my sights on booking a national tour. Going on a tour was the ideal first job for me. It’s a good way to make and save money right out of school—because you don’t have to worry about rent. And luckily, that happened. I was on tour with Shrek the Musical for 8 months. When I officially made my move to New York after the tour closed, it was a pretty seamless transition. I had friends that were moving at the same time. I subletted with them and eventually moved into the apartment that I’m still currently living in. Shortly after moving and settling in, I booked the tour of American Idiot. That happened a month after I moved into my apartment, so I only spent a brief amount of time in the city before going back on the road again. When I came back 8 months later after closing the tour, it was at that point that I decided that I didn’t really want to continue touring—at least not for awhile. I wanted to stay in New York, establish some connections, set some roots, work hard, and make a living there.
It’s hard when you’re on tour because you’re missing out on everything in New York.
Totally. I’d come back to the city and be thrown right back into the audition world. I hadn’t been here for what seemed like so long, and no one knew who I was. It always felt like I was starting all over again. But a national tour is also a great thing to have on your resume and feel like you’ve accomplished something.
What are you up to now?
I'm currently in Finding Neverland on Broadway, my Broadway debut. It's been a whirlwind, to say the least. It all happened literally in one week—basically my whole life changed in one week. Prior to Finding Neverland, there was a long period of time where I didn’t work. That was awful. I was hostessing, catering, babysitting, and taking any sort of survival job I could find. I did perform regionally a bit, but I was still non-equity, so I was making practically no money. The struggle was real.
I was returning to the city from a contract this past summer. It was a 4-week summer stock theatre gig in Cape Cod—it was great. I was coming back to the city fully prepared to search for a survival job again and to get back to the audition grind. I had nothing coming up, nothing in sight. I came back to New York on a Sunday in the beginning of August. I had gotten an appointment to sing at Telsey for Finding Neverland the next day. I went in on Monday and sang. I got an email that night saying that they wanted to see me dance the next day for Mia Michaels. It was a very small group of us when I showed up for the callback. It was just us, Mia Michaels, her assistant, and some members of the casting/creative team in a studio at Alvin Ailey. They were recording the callback for the members of the creative team that couldn't be there. We were in the room for probably 2 hours—the most rigorous 2 hours of my life.
During the callback, there was a definite moment when I realized just how possible this was. I thought, “This could actually happen.” They were looking for a swing, and I had swung before. I knew that I could do the job, and I just needed to show her that I could do it. When I left that callback, I called my agent right away. I just told her that I felt really good about it and that I had a feeling they would be making a decision soon. In any case, the prospect of possibly booking the job made me incredibly nervous and anxious, to say the least. My agent called me back about an hour later to let me know that I was on hold, and that we would hear something by the next day. I found out the next day (Wednesday) that I would be getting an offer. Two days later, I got the actual offer and learned that I would be starting rehearsals the following Tuesday. It was a crazy, incredibly quick process.
How did you react when you first found out?
When my agent told me that I was on hold for the job on the night of my final callback, that’s when I sort of had a freak-out, breakdown moment. I vividly remember the events of the next day when I actually found out. I had literally spent the entire day at home—I knew I was going to be finding out around late afternoon, early evening. Of course, I had planned nothing for that day, which was the absolute wrong thing to do [laughs]. I was home alone all day. I cleaned my apartment. I rearranged my furniture like four times. I hung things on the wall. I was going absolutely nuts—just finding any little thing to do to keep busy. I kept texting my agent, “Have you heard anything?” She told me we would know soon. I think she finally called me around 5:30pm. She told me that I got it. I would be getting my equity card and making my Broadway debut.
Honestly, I was just so frazzled. I was still in shock. I asked her if we had any details, and she said that I would get the official offer tomorrow. Of course the official offer didn’t come until the day after that. So, for that entire week I didn’t really eat. I barely slept. I was sort of in denial until I had the offer in writing. I had never seen the show before, so I was just in total shock. When Tuesday arrived, and I walked up to the theatre and saw the marquee, that was the moment when I realized, “This is actually happening right now.” I didn’t know what I was getting into, but it felt right.
I’ve always wanted to be on Broadway ever since elementary school. I knew it would happen at some point, but it’s just crazy how things line up when you least expect it. When you’re in the thick of it—when you’re auditioning, and maybe things are going really well, but nothing seems to be sticking—it’s so hard to not doubt yourself, to be able to look past it, and to convince yourself that you are making progress. When you feel like it’s not happening right this moment, it’s happening more than you know. You have to trust that the work you’re putting in is working for you.
What are your aspirations?
I definitely want to keep doing this. I want to stay in this business. I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else. I just want to keep working. I would love to keep moving up. I am a swing right now. I’d love to branch into the ensemble, continue understudying, play roles, do new and original works, all of that. I want to keep working, keep dancing, keep pursuing projects that I am super passionate about. I want to work with choreographers I’ve always aspired to work with and keep making connections. I want to stay here [laughs].
If you had a chance to give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
When I was in college and was experiencing a lot of rejection before even getting into the business—that was really hard for me. My self-confidence really took a plunge there. But I’d tell myself and anyone else to keep doing exactly what I did—to keep working hard and keep trusting yourself. Keep taking class. Use all of the resources that you can. Trust yourself, find passion in what you do, and remember to allow yourself to find the joy in it. Don’t do it for someone else. Don’t do it because you need to be on Broadway. Don’t give yourself a time limit. I think that’s really important. You can’t really move to the city, aspire to do these great things, and give yourself a time limit—or give yourself certain expectations. You just need to jump in and know that opportunities are going to come and go. Sometimes you’re not going to see it coming. You just have to be open to everything and find a way to still enjoy it.
I think it happens to everyone—there are several times where you feel like you come so close. You have one really promising audition or a slew of them; you invest all of this hope and energy, and then nothing happens. You feel like you’ve put in all of this work, and everything looks so hopeful, but suddenly you’re back to nothing. And then something else comes up, maybe something you never saw coming. You just have to keep trusting that it is working. Things are happening. You’re doing the right thing and you’re moving in the right direction.
College was probably my toughest time, only because I doubted myself a lot. I questioned if was doing something wrong, if I wasn't talented enough. At the time, I just didn't seem to be getting any sort of validation or any consistent answers to those questions I asked myself. As a result, it only made me want this more.
Also as a performer, I am a swing, so I cover six girls in the ensemble. At this point I’ve performed all six tracks minus one feature in 5 months. It was hard for me before I made my debut because I didn’t actually know when my debut was going to be, since I'm a swing. So, I wasn’t really sure which specific track to focus on or how it was going to happen. When I did finally make my debut, it was sort of an emergency situation. I found out that day around 3pm that I would be going on. I was in rehearsal, which was great, because I was able to work through stuff onstage. I wore someone else’s costumes, someone else’s wigs—it was a very last minute, crazy situation. At that point, I was just ready to do it. I was like, “Just put me on!” Just rip the bandaid off. And then my job began to feel a lot clearer. It’s all about going one track at a time, one day at a time, one show at a time. It’s a very difficult job.
In Finding Neverland, there was a show where a girl got sick mid-show, and I had to finish the show in her track. It was my first time playing the role of Wendy —my favorite track in the show. It’s such a beautiful part. I was ready for it—I had done it in rehearsal. In a way, it was nice to just be thrown in because I didn’t really have time to freak out. I just had to do it. Everyone was so supportive and in tune with everything that was happening. By the end of the show, I had finished my last big moment, and as soon as I exited the stage, I stood in the wings and just cried. It was such an adrenaline rush. I did it successfully, and nothing went wrong. It felt so good, and I was able to actually have fun because I couldn’t think about it. I was able to live it and enjoy it, which is such a great feeling.
That’s what’s hard when you’re not onstage every night. Sometimes you can’t always allow yourself to enjoy what you’re doing. You forget to live in it, dance through it, and make it a real thing because you’re so concerned about being in the right spot. Sometimes you forget that you’re on stage and doing this art form that you love. So it’s nice to settle into something once you've done it enough, but it's also exhilarating to just get thrown in.
Is there any last thing you want to share with the world?
What’s really helped me through everything—whether I am working or not—is to always make time for things that make you happy. Whether it’s dancing, yoga, walking around the city, visiting your favorite spot, writing, playing music—it's about finding those things that continue to make you happy. This city is stressful. You can wake up feeling great, and then you go to the train, and it's delayed, and it’s begun snowing outside, and suddenly everything is awful. All of these things that can happen in the city can really bog you down, but you just always have to make time for things that you love. I do musical theatre, and that’s my thing, but my favorite thing to do is take a contemporary jazz class where I don’t really know anybody in there. They’re not the people I am auditioning with. The room is filled with people who want to dance, who are there for themselves. I love being in that energy and environment. I feel like it brings me back to my roots, to what I love most about dancing and how it makes me feel. That's what makes me happy. Make time for things like that. That’s the only way you’re going to get through this. Whether things are going well or not. That’s what keeps you going.