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Three Terrific Leading Ladies

Carolee Carmello, Rebecca Faulkenberry, and Emily Padgett discuss their new Broadway gigs. logo
Carolee Carmello in Sister Act
(© Joan Marcus)
Broadway has some familiar -- and fantastic -- female faces back on the boards: Carolee Carmello has joined the cast of Sister Act as Mother Superior; Rebecca Faulkenberry is now starring in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark as Mary Jane; and Emily Padgett has returned to Rock of Ages as Sherrie. TheaterMania recently spoke to these three talented ladies about their latest gigs.

THEATERMANIA: This has been a busy year for you, from The Addams Family to Saving Aimee and now Sister Act. How did this job come about?
CAROLEE CARMELLO: I'm not totally sure. I didn't audition. I got a call from my manager while I was in Seattle doing Saving Aimee. He said they are replacing Victoria Clark and asked if I would be interested. I said, "yes," and thought I would audition when I got back. A few days later, they called and offered me the job. I never even saw the show.

TM: So when did you first see the musical?
CC: I saw it the day before I started rehearsals. Sister Act was what I expected. It was a lot of fun and very energetic. The audience was having a good time, and I had a great time!

TM: Was it challenging returning from Seattle and jumping right into this show?
CC: Yes, but only because Saving Aimee is the toughest role I have done vocally. My voice was so tired when I finished the run. I had three days off in between, but I'm fine now.

TM: Is it more difficult coming in as a replacement than originating a role?
CC: I've done it quite a bit. It's difficult in some ways, but in others it's easier. Coming in as a replacement, all of the kinks have been worked out and all of the bumps have been smoothed over. Creating a role is exciting, but can be challenging and tiring. You do have more exposure when you create a role and are involved in the creative process. The other downside with coming in as a replacement is that I don't have the bonding time with the cast.

TM: How would you describe Mother Superior?
CC: She is a woman who sees the world in black and white, no pun intended. She sees the right and wrong. It isn't until she meets Deloris that she sees the shades of gray in the world. Mother Superior has a great journey in the show. She is very respectful of all of the traditions of the convent and believes that she knows what's best for her sisters. There's a very touching moment at the end of the show when Mother Superior and Deloris come together. I was moved by it.



Rebecca Faulkenberry
THEATERMANIA: Rebecca, how did this role come about for you?
REBECCA FAULKENBERRY: The whole process happened very quickly. It took about a week from my first audition to being cast. I was looking forward to getting to play another role. The vocal demands of Rock of Ages are very high. You have a limited social life! I needed to rest my voice. I was doing a lot of high belting. You are really just screaming. At least with Spider-Man, I have some beautiful, intimate songs, and I am able to relax a little. They are both rock musicals, but are completely different.

TM: Did Jennifer Damiano, the original Mary Jane, give you any advice?
RF: She was lovely. I didn't want to get in her way as she was finishing her run. She gave me her number and told me that I can call her if I had any questions.

TM: How was your first show?
RF: It was so much more relaxed than I thought it would be, which was great because I was able to concentrate on the show and the role. I got lovely notes and flowers; I couldn't believe the supporters that I had. The Foxwoods is such a big theater, but I feel as if I am in my own world.

TM: What is your relationship like with Reeve Carney?
RF: Reeve is awesome! I also get to work with Matthew James Thomas. They are both very good-looking!

TM: Are there any similarities between Mary Jane and Sherrie?
RF: Both of my characters are trying to be actresses. Mary Jane is more successful than Sherrie. She doesn't have to become a stripper.

TM: Was it more challenging for you coming in as a replacement?
RF: It's the first time I've done that, and it worked out well. I love to build relationships with the cast, and that's usually done during rehearsals when everyone is rehearsing together. Everyone in the cast has been so nice, so open and welcoming.

TM: Would you consider more replacement roles?
RF: I love creating stuff, but have been fortunate that directors have let me give my take on the character and that's what happened here. Every role has been original to me.



Emily Padgett in Rock of Ages
(© Joan Marcus)
THEATERMANIA: How does it feel to be back in Rock of Ages?
EMILY PADGETT: It feels awesome. I'm back at home. I love this show!

TM: How did your return come about?
EP: I left to do White Noise in Chicago before Rock of Ages transferred to the Helen Hayes. When Rebecca Faulkenberry left to do Spider-Man, the show was nice enough to call me and invite me back. I was thrilled.

TM: What was your first show like after your return?
EP: It was weird! It felt like a new show. Parts felt like muscle memory and familiar, while other parts didn't. Once I put the costume on, it was great. It all came back to me.

TM: How do you relate to Sherrie?
EP: Sherrie has so many sides to her. She is a little naïve and that gets her into trouble sometimes. There are times when you don't see the warning signs in people. She is a naïve girl who comes into this big city. Sherrie has a great moment in the show where she stands up for herself. And, I get to sing 1980s rock music, which is awesome.

TM: How are you liking the Helen Hayes Theatre compared to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre?
EP: In addition to Rock of Ages, I also did Grease at the Brooks Atkinson, so I love that theater. The Helen Hayes is smaller, and I think Rock of Ages does well here. The staff is fantastic. It doesn't feel that different to me, maybe because I have been out of the show a little while.

TM: The musical recently celebrated its 1,000th New York performance. Why do you think audiences love the musical?
EP: I think people identify with that time period and that music. The music and the story remind people of special moments in their lives. It never gets boring. The show is well-written and the songs fit in well with the story.

TM: Would you say it is more challenging joining a show as a replacement versus creating a role?
EP: It definitely has its challenges. With White Noise, I was able to create a character. They write the music for you and cater things towards you and your needs. I don't know how it is with other shows, but with Rock of Ages, they let me add a bit to the role. They have been lovely in tailoring it for me. I didn't have to play Sherrie the way Kerry Butler or Rebecca did.

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