If you are looking for actress Mandy McDonell, she is currently waltzing her way across the nation in the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” As a member of the show’s ensemble, she performs every show in an extravagant and colorful ball gown, singing and dancing her way through the technically gorgeous numbers of this R+H masterpiece.
McDonell hails from San Jose, CA where she started performing at a young age. After doing research on college theater programs and auditioning for schools across the country, she started at the University of Utah in the Musical Theatre Program. In Salt Lake, she worked on five different productions at the Pioneer Theatre Company while in school. She came back after graduating summa cum laude in Spring 2017 to work on a sixth PTC production, “Mamma Mia.”
For McDonell, going on a national tour was immediately an immersive experience. Hired as not only an ensemble performer, but as an understudy for both the titular heroine of Ella and her stepsister Gabrielle, and with only three weeks of rehearsal in New York, there was no time to waste. When she wasn’t on stage, McDonell was studying, armed with notecards of lines from her two other “tracks” while noting the blocking from the side. “A lot of the things I learned in the MTP prepared me for the tight schedule— how to have the work ethic, but how to be able to tell the stories with such limited time.” McDonell recently made her principal role debut as Gabrielle when the show ran in Boston. “Honestly, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be,” McDonell said.
“Being on tour is such a shared experience,” McDonnell said. Traveling from city to city, the cast’s days off are spent on planes and buses and checking into new hotel rooms. Even in the rarities of “golden days” where they are completely free, McDonell is still immersed in theater, seeing shows in new cities when she can and staying on top of her roles. Traveling from city to city has sparked some new hobbies in her spare time, including trying new foods and exploring the local sights. “Ames, Iowa boasts the largest concrete gnome, so when we were there, of course I went to go see it. I’ve been to cities I never even thought of visiting before. It’s very cool,” McDonell said.
There is something else that makes this touring cast of “Cinderella” so special: It includes another U MTP graduate, John Peterson, who graduated in the spring of 2018 and is working as an Assistant Dance Captain/Swing on the tour. “Cinderella” was actually their tenth opening night together. Their long history only proves how well they work together.
I asked her if it was hard to stay sane or healthy when always with the same group of people. McDonell laughed, mentioned the importance of podcasts or games to keep you sane, but flipped the cons back to the pros. Truly soaking in every moment of this incredible opportunity, she knows that this tour has given her some great friends and she has learned so much from the talented performers around her.
McDonell understands just how important “Cinderella” is to those who attend the show. “Not only do we get to perform in amazing theaters in cities you would never expect to have such venues, but we get to do it for new audiences who have never seen a show like this,” McDonell said. “Because Cinderella is a show open to all ages, it’s incredible how inspiring this magical story is to kids in the audience who might find that this is their passion too.”
As a recent college grad who so quickly got a job touring with a Broadway company, McDonell remarks on how fast the time has flown and how quickly this adventure will be over. With the tour ending in April, she knows saying goodbye to an incredible journey will be hard, but she knows that there are so many other auditions and opportunities coming her way. She will be heading back to New York with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s important sentiment in her mind — “it’s possible.”
For more information on Mandy McDonell’s work, you can find her at her website http://www.mandymcdonell.com/.