One of the great joys of Bring It On: The Musical, the new high-energy musical at the St. James Theatre that is inspired by the popular film franchise about rival cheerleading teams, is its introduction of a slew of young, multi-talented actors. Chief among these New Faces of 2012 is 21-year-old Taylor Louderman, who portrays Campbell, the bubbly head cheerleader at Truman High School whose world is turned upside down when she is "redistricted" to rival Jackson High School. Louderman, who is joined by Jason Gotay (Rent) as Randall, Elle McLemore as Eva, Ariana DeBose (Hairspray, "So You Think You Can Dance") as Nautica, Gregory Haney (Memphis) as La Cienega, Neil Haskell (West Side Story, 9 to 5, "So You Think You Can Dance") as Steven, Janet Krupin as Kylar, Kate Rockwell (Legally Blonde, "Grease! You're the One That We Want") as Skylar and Nick Womack as Twig, could be described as a quadruple threat: singer, actor, dancer and cheerleading stunt master. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of chatting with an exuberant Louderman, who spoke about making her Broadway bow in the new family-friendly musical by Jeff Whitty, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt and Amanda Green; that brief interview follows.
Question: Since we haven't spoken before, let's start at the beginning. Where you were born and raised?
Taylor Louderman: I was actually born in Madison, Wisconsin, but raised in urban Missouri.
Question: When did you start performing?
Louderman: When I was ten, I did my first show. It was Annie.
Question: What role?
Louderman: I played Annie. [Laughs.] But prior to that, I had danced a little bit, and I did summer things, but that was my first musical theatre run-in.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Louderman: Well, growing up I watched a lot of Shirley Temple movies. [Laughs.] I would re-watch them over and over again. Today, there's so many… It changes so often, actors grow and evolve, so I don't want to just give one name. Question: When did performing change from a hobby to when you knew it was going to be your career?
Louderman: It was my first show at the Muny in St. Louis—the world's largest outdoor theatre. And, it was Aida, and I only came on stage for maybe a total of a minute-and-a-half the whole show because I was considered a Muny teen. We just kind of fill in the background, but once I stepped out on that theatre and saw 11,000 people, that's when I [thought], "This is too cool not for me to pursue."
Question: Did you go to college or did you go directly into performing?
Louderman: I went to the University of Michigan for two years, and I auditioned for Bring It On during my sophomore year, so I got to finish my sophomore year and then I joined the cast—the touring cast.
Question: In the same role that you're playing now?
Question: What was it like taking that show on the road and that experience for you because that would have been your first tour?
Louderman: Yeah, it was my first big anything! It was crazy. It was so much fun, and I learned so much—not even about performing, but as a person—and I had a lot of support with the creatives and with [director-choreographer] Andy [Blankenbuehler] and everyone who was on board. I have to really thank my producers because they really were aware that I was young and new, and they helped me a lot. So it was a blast and an amazing, amazing experience.
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Louderman: No, definitely Broadway. I would battle with my mother because she wanted me to do TV and film, and I didn't. [Laughs.]
Question: What about Broadway appealed to you?
Louderman: I think, for me, it was going as a little girl and watching the theatre and really being in awe of what was happening on stage and, after, getting to meet the actors. So I think that was definitely something I had grown up with. And, just the aspect of live theatre—it's happening right in front of your face. Especially with Bring It On—we're doing these cheer stunts… [There aren't any] stunt doubles. It's real life, and that's what's cool. And, things happen—if you mess up, that's the fun of it.
Question: I'm just curious how your first night on Broadway compared to what you thought it was going to be like. Did it live up to your expectations?
Louderman: Yeah. [Laughs.] Leading up to it, I would have nightmares that something would go wrong or I wouldn't please my director or something. I was just really worried that it would be stressful and just a negative energy. But the whole night was really a celebration, and I didn't anticipate that at all. We had worked so hard leading up to it that I think opening night was really just about doing a show for people who love and support us and celebrating it. There was a moment on stage where I was just like in awe as Taylor, thinking, "Oh my gosh. This is what Beyoncé feels like." [Laughs.] I was staring into this light, and I can't see, and there are people going crazy in the audience. It was an amazing feeling.
Question: How would you describe Campbell, the character that you play?
Louderman: Campbell is so, so driven. She just kind of wants to make her mark and do something that's meaningful, and I think cheerleading happens to be that path for her. But really, she just wants to make a difference and be a big person, so when she gets redistricted, I think that makes everything kind of crumble for her, and she doesn't know what to do. But she learns a lot of life lessons, and it pulls out a lot of strengths in Campbell that you get to see at the end of the show. So she's very driven. She's a nice girl. She's worked really, really, really hard. And, you have to come see the show to find out what happens! [Laughs.]
|photo by Craig Schwartz|
Louderman: For her, not necessarily, but I really enjoy getting to show all of her colors. She's really nice, and so it's such an extreme for her to go into envy and rage in the end of Act I. She gets to sing about how upset she was that she was backstabbed. [Laughs.] So that's my favorite. I get to do a lot of stunting and singing and dancing all in one number, and it's just filled with energy. Question: Were you ever a cheerleader in high school?
Louderman: No, I wasn't. I played basketball and soccer, so I was certainly athletic, and I think that helped now when I had to learn the cheerleading stuff because it definitely is a sport. [Laughs.] No, I didn't have any stunting experience.
Question: Tell me a little bit about the process of learning all the stunts because you do major ones in the show. It's not like you step aside.
Louderman: When I first started learning, it was terrifying. I never, ever thought I would be going high up in the air on two guys' hands. [Laughs.] So it was new, and it was scary. But I think, for me, it was just getting over the fear-factor because the guys do a lot of the work. We just have to stay tight and make sure that we're a statue up there for them to hold up. So after I got over being scared, it was easy, and now I prefer to do a stunt than a dance move just because I feel more comfortable doing it.
Question: How demanding is doing the show eight times a week?
Louderman: It's very, very demanding. I sleep more than I ever have. I can't go to the gym and workout. I feel guilty for not doing that, but at the same time, it's a lot because the main priority is to put on a good show every night. So I do what I can to really maintain my body and my voice. It's not easy, but you make do. You make it work.
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Louderman: Absolutely. We all have different strengths, and I think because of that we have a greater respect for each other. It's awesome to be able to have that vibe on stage and off stage. It was just a nice camaraderie that we've developed, and we're certainly a family now. Our lives are in each other's hands, so it has to be a family.
Question: Have you guys recorded this show?
Louderman: No, we haven't, but we're hoping to! [Laughs.] We have three songs that are available at the theatre and on iTunes, but that's it so far. [Sh-K-Boom records announced Aug. 9 it will release a full cast recording on a future date.]
Question: Where would you like to see your career go from here? Do you have dream roles? What's in your mind as your path?
Louderman: I don't know. This all happened so quickly. I didn't really get a chance to dream about it. But I think Campbell really is my dream role. I always hoped that there would be a part created for a girl who has to show off her athletic ability and a little bit of dancing and belting. And, this character—it's really a dream come true for me. I think I'd love to dabble in TV and film and play with that. I think my experience in acting is more subtle, and I think I may be okay at it. [Laughs.] For now, it's really about the journey, and I couldn't tell you what specific roles I hope to play. But as long as I'm having fun and doing my job well.
Question: Have you been able to enjoy New York? Had you been here before?
Louderman: [Laughs.] No. It's certainly an adjustment for me. I haven't had a lot of time to play, really, in New York so far, so I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt. But, yeah, it's an adjustment. It's very different from the life that I grew up and the life that I had in Michigan. This is the first time I've really been on my own—working. I was at college before, and previously I was at high school. [Laughs.] It's life-changing! I'm adjusting, and I'm sure that I will love it just like everyone says I will.
|photo by Craig Schwartz|
Louderman: It's so, so surreal in a sense. I never imagined this would happen, I guess, this soon, although I am so, so grateful, you know. Holy cow! It's what I dreamed of since I was itty-bitty! But there's a reality, too, that I think a lot of people don't get—or I didn't even get. I still take the subway, and I still walk home every day. It's just funny, after leaving the stage door and all that, the minute I walk away, I'm back to reality and just like everyone else. But it's cool to be able to say to myself, "I'm walking to work," but it's being on Broadway! Question: Since the show is so physical, I'm curious whether you've been watching any of the Olympics?
Louderman: Oh my gosh, yeah, absolutely! I watch the gymnastics, specifically, with a whole new perspective after watching the cheerleaders every day doing gymnastics. It's really cool. I didn't even think twice about it, but now that you ask, it's definitely more exciting to watch.
Question: Do you have any other projects in the works or are you just focusing on Bring It On at the moment?
Louderman: Not quite yet because we just opened the show, but I'm on the lookout, and we'll see!
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.