This past week I had the opportunity to talk with Rachel Fairbanks of the First National Tour of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This Tony Award-winning Broadway musical has been dazzling audiences across the country with its version of the classic story. It’s a musical filled with magic, humor, romance and is perfect for the whole family. It opens in Boston Tuesday September 29th.
Q: Rachel, thank you for taking the time to give readers a behind the scenes look at Cinderella and life on tour. What is your role or roles in this First National Tour of Cinderella?
A: Ensemble/ fox puppet, cover: Ella (Cinderella) and Gabrielle (stepsister).
Q: How long have you been on tour with the show?
A: I started with the show on April 20th.
Q: What was the audition process like for this tour?
A: I had been called in to audition a couple times before this particular audition and each time the timing wasn't quite right. But this time: I had just gotten back from Chicago after finishing the out of town tryout for "First Wives Club" the musical, and my agent told me that I had an audition on Thursday for an immediate replacement for the tour as Ens./ Ella Cover. I went in for a prescreen with the casting director and then was informed I had a callback for the creative team on that following Monday night. That night I went in and sang for the team a handful of times and then I was asked to stay and dance. After the dance I was kept for a final cut where we partnered part of the waltz. The next morning I got a call from my agent that I had to pack my bags, find another sublet for my apartment in NY, and meet the cast out in LA.
Q: Is this your first National Tour? If so, how has the experience been so far?
A: This is my first national tour! It's definitely been an adjustment moving to a different city every week or so. But now I have figured out how to make myself feel at home in each new hotel room and each new dressing room. My dressing station is filled with pictures and color to help brighten up an otherwise plain station. And then I travel with a few things from home to keep at my hotel room. Once you realize that your set and your fellow cast and crew are your home and family while you are out on the road, it gets easier to be away from my apartment and loved ones.
Q: How did the rehearsal process for this show differ from other shows you have done? Is rehearsing for a tour that much different from rehearsing for a stationary show?
A: For me because I was a replacement on the tour, I learned my ensemble track in about 4-5 days while the show was going on at night and then after I learned my ensemble track I started to learn Ella and Gabrielle. With each new track you learn you have a "put-in" with the cast in which you go through at show pace to give you a chance at it before you make your debut in your respective new track.
Q: What is your favorite part of the show to perform and why?
A: My favorite part to perform in the show is the Waltz at the end of Act I. I will never forget the first time I watched the Waltz on Broadway in the very back of the balcony... Watching the different colors swirl in intricate and beautiful patterns across the stage completely took my breath away. It was the moment I knew I had to be a part of this show. And doing the Waltz as Ella is completely magical. Truly a dream come true.
Q: How do you feel about performing this show in Boston near your home town?
A: It has been a goal and dream of mine to perform at the Boston Opera House and I feel so beyond excited to be able to share this show with my hometown and family.
Q: How old were you when you decided that you wanted to pursue performing as a career? How many years have you been performing professionally?
A: I would have to say when I was in Bye Bye Birdie at North Shore Music Theatre directed and choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld. His inspiring words and that production affirmed that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I have worked professionally for about five years.
Q: Where did you study for your theatre career?
A: I graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from Penn State University. “WE ARE... LET’S GO STATE!”
Q: As a stage artist, who else in the theatre world inspires you?
A: It is hard to pick just one person in the theatre world. With each new show I am a part of, I meet a handful of new people that I learn from and am inspired by. That's part of why I love my job so much. I have had a few mentors, professors, and colleagues along the way that have completely shaped who I am as a performer and I am forever grateful for them.
Q: Do you have any career role models?
A: I would have to say Kate Baldwin, Sutton Foster and Laura Osnes.
Q: What is a typical day on tour?
A: Wake up around 8:30am for breakfast, work out, rehearsal from 1-5, show from 7:30-10 then back home to FaceTime with loved ones or out for a glass of wine with the gang.
Q: What are your three must have travel items?
A: Personal items: pictures of my family, Pluto (my travel buddy), and fresh flowers
Practical items: Quest bars, a good book, ear plane plugs
Q: What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you? And did you follow that advice?
A: The best piece of advice I ever received was to "never stop learning". One of the strongest cornerstones of Penn State University is their focus on a broad and well-rounded education. I took some of the most compelling classes at Penn State, everything from Acting and Movement to Sports Nutrition and Sociology of the Family.
Q: How do you keep your life balanced while touring?
A: Like in New York, it's important to give yourself projects that will creatively fuel you and take your mind off the task at hand when life gets stressful. In our dressing room some people cross-stitch, color elaborate pictures, read, bedazzle and write. We also try to take advantage of what the city we are in has to offer: museums, restaurants, parks and the list goes on. But most importantly I try to check in with my family and friends every day. It can be challenging with all of the time zone differences, but you make it work because it is vital to check in with your support system. Also a great workout will always make the day a little brighter.
Q: Do you believe that a successful theatre career is based more on natural talent or learned technique and professional training?
A: It has to be a combination of both. Even the most talented artists in the world have had some form of training whether it be on the job or in the classroom. But the most important point to remember is to be a kind and professional individual that people want to hire again and again.
Q: Where do you see yourself and your career in five years?
A: It is hard to answer that question in this field, but I hope to have accomplished some of my professional and personal goals and to be working towards new adventures and challenges.
Q: What other shows are on your career bucket list?
A: Goodness it's so hard to choose just a few: Beautiful, The Last Five Years, Wicked, a Fosse show, and I would love to be in Into the Woods again.
Q: If you were not in the theatre business, what career could you see yourself having?
A: I would love to get a master’s degree in Heath Education eventually and work on the university level with Musical Theatre programs to educate students on nutrition, cross training and body image within this field.
Q: Do you have any advice for young performers thinking about auditioning for a National Tour?
A: I would say to focus on your training so the technique becomes second nature. Once it’s second nature you can just have fun in the room. And don't sweat the “No's”. Everyone hears some no's, but it makes the “Yes” that's right around the corner that much sweeter!
Thanks to Rachel Fairbanks for sharing about Cinderella, her experiences thus far on tour and in her career and for offering advice to readers. I encourage everyone to check out the First National Tour of Cinderella playing at the Boston Opera House from September 29th - October 11th. Check out http://boston.broadway.com/shows/cinderella-baa/ to purchase tickets, get more information and check out where the tour is headed next.
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com