Role: Swing
Project: National tour of ‘Cats’

Lynn Craig

Lynn Craig

“I thought I bombed,” actor Lynn Craig says of her audition for Cats. “All the women that went in before me for the same roles were in there forever. They were singing the songs four times, getting direction, and dancing in the room, and then I went in and I sang each song once, with maybe one direction change. We talked for a second, the casting director asked if I could dance, and then he said goodbye. So I thought, Oh, I blew it. They don’t like me.” A few weeks later Craig was cast as a female swing covering the roles of Grizabella, Jellylorum, and Jennyanydots in Troika Entertainment’s upcoming nonunion national tour.

Casting director Dave Clemmons says that although actors may want to stay in the room as long as possible, the idea that a longer audition is a better audition is a misconception. “They think that if you’re in and out and you do your thing quickly, then you’re not doing well,” he says. “But if you come in and you’re it, why waste anybody’s time fooling around?”

Clemmons says Craig was uniquely positioned to cover the three roles, and the decision to cast her as a swing was made almost immediately. Though she was never asked to dance at the audition, her background in singing opera, along with her musical theatre training in New York at the New School and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, means Craig can not only play Jellylorum, the show’s “opera cat,” but she can also handle Grizabella’s belting and Jennyanydots’ character singing and tap dancing.

“The track that she’s on is one of the toughest tracks in the show,” Clemmons says. “To find someone with the ability to sing in all those styles, and with the right look to fit into all of those styles, is very hard to do. But she can do it, and it’s proof that if you train classically but then choose to apply that to other styles, it will help you be able to do a multitude of things.”

Touring was a primary goal for Craig this year. Although she’s a little nervous about living on a bus for 10 months and disappointed that she won’t be on stage for every performance, she says her previous experiences as an understudy have prepared her for the job. She just hopes the tour stops in Chicago and that she gets to go on there, so her family can see her perform. Rehearsals for the tour begin in August, and performances start this fall.

Craig says her mixed racial heritage sometimes limits her casting opportunities, but Cats offers a refreshing change. “Often I’m [told I’m] ‘too white’ to play Asian roles,” she says, “but also ‘too ethnic’ to play white roles. This is one role where I’m wearing so much makeup that my ethnicity doesn’t matter. And that feels great. To be cast based on talent more than type is an amazing thing.”

This “Who Got the Part?” column was published in the July 24-30, 2008 issue of Back Stage and online at BackStage.com.

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