McCandless teen to go from CLO's 'Gypsy' to Comtra's 'Honk!'
For 13-year-old Caroline Lucas of McCandless, summer is no time to relax.
An avid actress, singer and dancer, Caroline has been rehearsing three to five hours a day, three to four days a week since mid-June for a featured role in Comtra Theatre's upcoming production of “Honk!” — a musical based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, ‘The Ugly Duckling' — which runs for six shows from July 24 to August 2 in Cranberry.
And while preparing for that show, Caroline also will be rehearsing for and performing in Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's production of “Gypsy” — a musical based on the 1957 memoir of Gypsy Rose Lee, a famous striptease artist, and her self-serving show-business mother — which has a 12-performance run from July 10 to 19 at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Caroline is cast in the 15-member children's ensemble for “Gypsy.” Gypsy and her sister performed in a children's vaudeville troupe when they were young.
And Caroline is cast in “Honk!” as the show's villain, a wily cat.
“I'll be missing a lot of ‘Honk!' rehearsals for ‘Gypsy.' I'll have to work on my own. It's a pretty crazy calendar,” she said, referring, in part, to “Gypsy” rehearsals that can run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day from July 4 to July 10.
Rehearsals for “Gypsy” had not started by this edition's deadline, so Caroline did not know what she would be doing as part of the ensemble.
“Hopefully, I'll be singing and dancing and be on stage for a good amount of time. I'm eager to get to rehearsal and see what's happening,” she said.
Caroline's mother, Sheree Lucas, remembers early hints of her daughter's passion for musical theater.
“She was maybe 3 years old when she asked to be Miss Agatha Hannigan for Halloween. (Miss Hannigan is the orphanage matron from the musical, ‘Annie,' who hates children but is fond of alcoholic beverages.) It was one of the funniest things.”
Ironically, Caroline has been cast in three different productions of “Annie” in the past few years.
Her first experience in musical theater was a school production of “Annie” at Peebles Elementary School in McCandless in 2012, when, as a fourth-grader, she was a member of the ensemble. Her second production of “Annie” was with the CLO at the Benedum Center that same year, when she was cast as an orphan. Her third was with the Comtra Theatre in 2014, when she was Annie.
“It's definitely one of my favorite musicals. I like the story and music. It was fun being an orphan on the Benedum stage because it's neat looking out into the audience and seeing the big crowd. It was a great experience, but being Annie (at the Comtra Theatre) was also cool because I was the lead in the show and got to be in every number,” she said.
Caroline, who will be in the eighth grade at Carson Middle School in McCandless, began taking competitive dance classes when she was 3. She enrolled at the CLO Academy when she was 9 and continues to take classes in voice and dance there.
As a member of the CLO Academy, she participates in the program's summer-camp productions, some CLO main-stage shows and the CLO Mini Stars — an ensemble of 24 youths who perform musical medleys throughout the Pittsburgh region.
“Her talents earned her a spot (in ‘Gypsy'). The members of the ensemble, they sing, they move. She had the magic,” said CLO Academy Principal Patty Maloney of Upper St. Clair.
Caroline's parents are proud of their daughter but not surprised by her talents.
“She comes from a musical family,” said her mother, who plays the piano. Caroline's father, Larry, is a music teacher in the Peter's Township School District and a trumpet player. Her older sister, Samantha, also participates in musical theater at the CLO Academy and North Allegheny Senior High School.
“It's really a lot of fun. There have been lots of shows in the past several years, and getting the opportunity to perform at the Benedum is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Sheree Lucas said.
“We're always off to one show or another. It's a part of who we are.”
Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.