Exactly one year ago, Eva Noblezada made her Broadway debut on the Minskoff stage, where the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (also known as the Jimmy Awards) were held July 1. Noblezada, who came from Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, NC, to compete for the coveted Jimmy was a Blumey Awards winner for her performance as Ariel Moore in Footloose. Following a confident and energetic performance of "Hero" at the Jimmys, she was selected as a finalist in the competition and sang "With You" from Ghost for her solo performance. Casting director Tara Rubin, a judge at this year's annual event who cast the original company of Broadway's Ghost, was in the audience and was so moved by Noblezada's performance that she set up the teenager's audition for producer Cameron Mackintosh, who mounts the London revival of Saigon. Much like Saigon's original, Tony Award-winning leading lady, Lea Salonga, Noblezada landed the role of Kim on raw talent and leads a company of a major musical at 18 years old.
How is Miss Saigon going out there in the West End?
Eva Noblezada: Oh, it's going so well! Can I just say it's so glad to hear an American accent via phone? [Laughs.]
You killed it at the Jimmy Awards last year. I was so excited when I heard you were cast in Saigon because I covered the ceremony last year, and your performance was incredible. How did you get on board for Saigon? What happened after the Jimmy Awards, and how did things take off?
EN: Tara Rubin, who is a casting director in New York, was in the audience, and she heard me sing ["With You"] from Ghost — and, funny enough, she cast the original cast for that [musical] — and she heard that and thought, "I have the perfect audition for this girl." [She] gave me her contact information afterwards and got in touch and helped me set up my first audition for Cameron [Mackintosh].
I heard that you had a bit of a crazy audition story?
EN: A bit! They had me fly up several times from Charlotte to New York to audition, and it happened so fast — the timespan [from] when I started auditioning — and my last audition, I was supposed to leave the next morning, [but] Cameron said, "Why don't you stay tonight? Go see a show, and tomorrow morning, I want to see you for one final callback at the Majestic Theatre." The next morning I go, sing two songs, and Cameron sits me down in the theatre and says, "How would you feel about moving to London?" [Laughs.] So it was absolutely crazy!
What was going through your mind in that moment? What's it like hearing that you're going to star in Miss Saigon? It's a life-changing event.
EN: Well, at first — I'm going to be honest — when he told me, I thought that he was talking about [just] being in the show. I knew that I was going to be a Kim, but I [also] knew that there were going to be alternates and covers, so I didn't know exactly what my part was. I was very grateful. It was such a surreal moment, and it was very magical, and I just started crying when he told me because it meant [that] I get to be a part of it. But it wasn't until my new agent came down from London a month or two later and said — [and] pretty much put it in stone — "Yeah, you're Kim." … I don't know! [Laughs.] I could not believe what was actually happening.
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