Carly Rae Jepsen: singer, songwriter…Broadway star? While the “Call Me Maybe” songstress is best known for her international, record-breaking single, she’s making a name for herself on the Great White Way in the title role of Cinderella in the Rodgers + Hammerstein musical of the same name, currently playing at the Broadway Theatre. And since starting the role Feb. 4, she’s found the experience has been “the greatest of my life.”
“It’s amazing. I think every little girl that I know dreams of living in New York one day, and I’m no different. I always thought one day I would land here for a period of my life,” Jepsen said when EW spoke with her at Gray Line NYC’s Ride of Fame event, where the singer was honored with a ceremony that unveiled her photo on the popular double-decker tour buses. “And it’s incredible to get to do that, and then not only land here, but land here and be on Broadway…and then a bus! It’s strange, but it’s a huge honor.”
Jepsen may have risen to fame as a pop star singing alongside Justin Bieber, but Broadway has been a lifelong dream for the actress, even before her days as a Canadian Idol. In high school, Jepsen starred in productions such as Annie and The Wiz, and mentions her parents always had some sort of musical theatre song playing at home in British Columbia, where she grew up. Already familiar with the world of live theatre, her knowledge prepared her for the grueling production schedules and preparation time that Broadway requires.
“I began by basically moving here the first week and we began rehearsals that day,” she explains. “And it was a little less than a month from then until I performed the role, but luckily, I was with a team of people who just knew that would be enough time, and we just workshopped it every day — singing, acting, everything.” Jepsen credited the supportive Cinderella cast, including TV icon Fran Drescher (who plays her evil stemother, Madame) for helping to calm her nerves. “It was about a week before we opened that I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how we’re gonna do this’,” she recalls. “But somehow, every day, we would just get further and further. By opening night, I actually felt more excited to do it than nervous to do it. Like, I was ready just to go.”
Still, despite the fact that Jepsen is used to being on stage in front of thousands of people, the singer is acutely aware of the difference between performing a concert and performing on Broadway eight times a week. “When it’s your own show, I think there’s a little bit of flexibility — like, hey, I decided I’m going to cut this number tonight, or, I don’t want to do this costume change, so I’m just gonna wear this dress the whole way. No! This is Broadway!” Jepsen laughs. “There are rules! You have to follow them. It’s just a well-oiled machine, and I’m a part of it.”
“But I think that’s what I love about the repetition of the same show every night,” she continues. “The challenge is sort of finding out how to develop your own character and how to make the show better and better, and every night I find that I’m hungry to get back on again because I’ve made a discovery — ‘oh, this scene really works well if I…ok…gonna try that again tomorrow and maybe go a little further with it.'”
In the classic fairytale, Cinderella rises from rags to riches thanks to the help of her kindly fairy godmother (played by Victoria Clark), proving that no one does it alone — a sentiment that rings true in real life. So who does the star credit as her own “guardian angel” in helping her to achieve her dreams? “I had two teachers in high school who were influential, Mr. Holland’s Opus style,” Jepsen reveals. “David Fyer, who was my music director, and Beverly Holmes, who was my acting teacher — who, even after, continued to be extremely supportive. Bev drove me to my Canadian Idol audition, and the university I went to, and really kind of helped steer my passion. I went looking for ways to learn better and get more, and I thank them for that.”
Cinderella is currently playing at the Broadway Theatre.