Sophia Anne Caruso
It's been a banner couple of years for 14-year-old actress Sophia Anne Caruso, who stars as Girl opposite Michael C. Hall in the much-in-the-news David Bowie-Enda Walsh musical Lazarus, directed by Ivo Van Hove, at New York Theatre Workshop.
Caruso, who can also boast the Kennedy Center world premiere of the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens musical Little Dancer among her credits, received a 2015 Lucille Lortel Award nomination for her work as Iris in Anne Kaufman's The Nether at MCC Theater. She was also seen in Off-Broadway's Ruthless!, the world premiere of Secondhand Lions The Musical, the NBC live broadcast of The Sound of Music and the films "37" and "Jack of the Red Hearts." The young artist also garnered critical acclaim for her aforementioned role in the Bowie-Walsh musical, which continues at the Off-Broadway venue through Jan. 20. In fact, The New York Times called Caruso "radiant," while The Hollywood Reporter said, "Caruso is bewitching, combining doll-like vulnerability with strength and determination; her 'Life on Mars?' encapsulates the show's lingering melancholy." Caruso, who is also a trained ballerina, recently took a break from the spotlight to answers our questions via email.
Where were you born and raised?
Sophia Anne Caruso: I was born and spent the beginning of my life in Spokane, Washington. I lived there until I was 11 when I moved to New York with my mom for a project, and we ended up staying.
When did you start performing?
Caruso: I've always been a dramatic person, so truly I feel like I've been acting forever. I was cast in my first play when I was eight. My first legit show was The Miracle Worker, directed by Patty Duke, when I was nine. I have been working professionally since then.
Were there any actors or singers who had a particularly strong influence on you? Who are your vocal idols?
Caruso: Many performers have influenced me — some of my favorite musicians are Eva Cassidy, Elvis, Norah Jones, Sufjan Stevens, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie, with whom I'm currently working with on Lazarus. I like singers who have interesting tone and texture.
I am a huge fan of "American Horror Story," so anybody on that show is one of my favorites. Aside from that, I like Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Katherine Heigl and Michael C. Hall — it is really exciting for me to work with Michael on Lazarus.
You were part of the world premiere of Little Dancer. What was that experience like? Any chance the musical may come to Broadway?
Caruso: Little Dancer was an incredible experience. Being directed by five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman was absolutely amazing. There are many rumors about Little Dancer moving to Broadway, but my lips are sealed on details.
Tell me about performing Sound of Music live on TV. Is there any musical/role you would particularly love to do on TV?
Caruso: Sound of Music Live was groundbreaking. It was a surprise to me that 22 million people tuned in…. The great thing to me about live musicals on TV is that it introduces people to theatre who otherwise wouldn't have access to live productions.… I would love to do "American Horror Story." It has been one of my favorite shows for a long time. I would also like to make appearances on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Grimm."
Tell me about the role you're playing in Lazarus.
Caruso: My role in Lazarus is very hard to explain. Lazarus focuses on Thomas Newton as he remains still on Earth — a "man" unable to die, his head soaked in cheap gin and haunted by a past love. We follow Newton during the course of a few days, where the arrival of another lost soul might set him finally free. My character is sort of a guardian angel. She helps Newton through his issues and brings him hope…
Do you have a favorite moment in Lazarus for your character?
Caruso: I have many great moments, but I sing a few solos, one of which is a new song by David Bowie just for my character. Singing that song every night is my favorite, but the whole show is so rewarding for me.
Has David Bowie been involved with the production?
Caruso: He has been involved a good amount, and he is incredibly nice and very chill.
You received a Lucille Lortel nomination for your work in The Nether. What did that mean to you to be recognized for your performance?
Caruso: The Nether is in my top three favorite shows I've done. I loved the message, and working for MCC Theater was such a thrill. I really enjoy doing edgy work like that play. To excel and be recognized for doing what I love makes me the happiest girl on earth.
You’ve been in several films and TV shows. Do you have a favorite?
Caruso: I feel like every time I do a great show it becomes my new favorite…. haha! But I do have to go back to the moment when I had just moved to New York and I was asked to be a guest on NBC’s "Smash" with Bernadette Peters. The joy I felt doing that show I bottled up. Whenever I get frustrated with show business, I just remember that moment and I feel better.
You’ve been performing since a very young age. How does your schooling work? Do you have a tutor?
Caruso: I'm homeschooled. I do all of my schoolwork on my laptop, and I always work to get ahead before I start a show. Then all of my energy goes into the production.
What are some of your favorite musicals? Any musical roles you would love to do on stage?
Caruso: I would really like to play Monica in Rooms. It is an Irish rock romance musical. I listen to the recording everyday! I also always wanted to play Yitzhak in Hedwig...
Where would you like to see your career go from here?
Caruso: I would love to continue doing quality theatre. Anything edgy, unique and funky is what I like. I also see myself doing more film and TV. I also would like to record my first album.
Any other upcoming projects you can discuss?
Caruso: I have a bunch of projects in the works, but there is nothing I can discuss yet. But stay tuned!
For more information, visit NYTW.org.
BONUS: Sophia's Firsts!
First Broadway Show Attended: The first Broadway show I saw was Billy Elliot. I saw it on my first trip to New York, and I think I was nine.
First Concert: To be honest, I've never seen one.
First Moment of Theatrical Inspiration: I've always loved to sing and perform, but I knew I wanted to do this as a career during my first professional production, which was The Miracle Worker directed by Patty Duke.
First Role: The very first production I was ever in was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and I played an angel, and I remember always getting in trouble for belting "Silent Night" and not doing the soft version.
First Cast Album: I'm actually not sure because I have so many. I think it's this Irish musical called Rooms, which is now one of my favorites to listen to.
First Showbiz Crush: My career is my love. But young Leo DiCaprio is pretty unreal.
First Celeb Encounter: Bernadette Peters was one of the first Broadway stars I met, but I also worked with Patty Duke when I did The Miracle Worker.
First 2016 Plan: I have many things planned, but the first thing is to sleep in till noon on New Year's Day.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to [email protected].
Senior editor Andrew Gans also pens the weekly Their Favorite Things.