I’ve been heavily involved in the theatre community since meeting my college roommate in 2012.
I attended Point Park University, a liberal arts school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The college is known for graduating skilled actors and dancers, and often makes top-10 lists of the best theater and dance schools in the country.
Kaley Voorhees is considered a lyric soprano. In other words, she has the voice for classical musical theatre. She is almost always cast as the ingénue in a production.
The summer before our junior year, Kaley landed the lead role of Christine Daaé in “The Phantom of the Opera,” Broadway’s longest-running musical.
I still get dizzy remembering how fast her life changed, and in turn, my own.
Her performance at the National Singing Star Competition in June 2014 at the Richmond Town Square mall in Ohio garnered the attention of Julie Matthews and Debi Lewin, who would later become her managers.
Matthews and Lewin reached out to Tara Rubin Casting, the company that has been finding actors for Broadway’s “Phantom” throughout most of its run.
Less than three months later, and after a handful of auditions, Kaley was offered the lead role in “Phantom.”
Before Broadway, her biggest part was Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun” in high school.
She became the first leading actress in the history of the New York production to be born after the musical’s Broadway opening.
I was at her first performance at the Majestic Theatre in New York City on Sept. 8, 2014, but that feels like a lifetime ago now.
Hal Prince, the director of “Phantom,” took a particular liking to Kaley.
In 2015, he approached her about starring in “Prince of Broadway,” a new musical about his 60-year career and the circumstances and fortune, both good and bad, that led him to create some of the most beloved theater of all time.
Prince is what some people call a “theater god.” He has 21 Tony Awards, and has produced and directed many of the best-known musical productions of the 20th century, including “Cabaret,” “Evita” and “West Side Story.”
“Prince” made its world premiere in Japan in October 2015. It tested well with Japanese audiences and was green-lighted to open on Broadway in 2017.
The opening night of a Broadway show is a glitzy affair. It is invite-only, and some of the most renowned theater, television and movie stars attend.
I considered renting a dress in New York, but to my surprise, I found exactly what I was looking for at Occasions, a bridal shop tucked away near Wal-Mart in Durango.
Waking up in Durango and going to bed in New York is a peculiar experience. The two places couldn’t be more different, but I quickly fell into the fast-paced rhythm of the city.
I flew into New York from Albuquerque on Aug. 23, one day before the opening. The morning of the show, Kaley and I shopped for shoes and clutches to match our dresses.
I forked out about $150 to get my hair and makeup done because I felt too self-conscious to do it myself.
At 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24, I was standing in front of the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on West 47th Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan.
Photographers swarmed the entrance to the theater, snapping photos of the more high-profile attendees.
I noticed Carol Burnett and Chita Rivera on my way into the theater, and had to remind myself not to freak out.
Much to the testament of a talented cast, the show went off without a hitch. It had been workshopped a lot since I last saw it in Japan, and it received mostly positive reviews.
The after-party was held at Bryant Park Grill, situated behind the landmark New York Public Library.
Food was provided, and beer, wine and champagne was on the house.
Schmoozing with prominent New Yorkers after attending the opening of a Broadway show in which my friend starred is something I will never forget.
Despite her quick ascent to the world’s largest stage, Kaley has been nothing but humble. At just 23 years old, she’s starred in two Broadway productions.
When I asked her what’s next, she didn’t hesitate.
“As long as I get to do what I love in some form, the goal is to keep working and to continue to have the opportunity to perform in front of any audience,” she said.