MEET THE CAST: CAITLIN O’LEARY

Caitlin O'Leary - HeleneToday, we shine the spotlight on Caitlin O’Leary, who plays the role of “Helene” in our upcoming production of  Sweet Charity.

Caitlin is thrilled to be making her Hillbarn debut! Past credits include: Ragtime (Emma Goldman), 9 to 5: The Musical (Violet Newstead), Anyone Can Whistle (Cora Hooper), Chicago (Velma), Urinetown (Pennywise), West Side Story (Rosalia), Sweeney Todd (TheatreWorks; ensemble).  Ms. O’Leary graduated CSUEB with a BA in Theatre Arts, and the first female recipient of the Carol Channing Friends of the Arts Scholarship.

What inspired you to accept a role in SWEET CHARITY?
When I was in college, my musical theatre dance class learned the dance for “Something Better Than This” – the same choreography from the movie, and it was SO difficult. I was floored by Chita, Paula, and Shirley…they are such gorgeous dancers, and watching them evoked so many emotions. I wanted to challenge myself with this role, and prove to myself how much I’ve grown as a performer, since college. Also, when I learned that Ali Gangi would be playing my Nickie, I HAD to accept! We did 9 to 5: The Musical a few years ago, and our off stage chemistry and friendship definitely translates on stage. I knew I’d have a blast playing around and developing characters with her.

What, if anything, do you have in common with your character, Helene?
Helene is pretty different than I am – while we share a good sense of self-confidence, she is much more sassy than I am; a total tough girl from New York. Playing someone so different from yourself is a lot of fun – you really get to play around and find what works for you.

What do you think the audience will be discussing on their way home after seeing SWEET CHARITY?
I think audiences will be floored by the dancing, in this incredibly dance heavy show, and the stage prowess of our leading lady, Monique Hafen. She’s a real tour de force!

When did you discover your love for the theatre?
My love for theatre started at a very young age…My parents took us to see the touring production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and before you know it, my sisters and I were putting on shows on our living room floor – directed, and choreographed by myself, of course. Fast forward to the 5th grade, and my class was putting on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and I got cast as Scrooge. I was officially bitten by the theatre bug!

How did you get started in theatre?

After doing mostly school productions in middle and high schools, I went to Cal State East Bay to major in Theatre Arts. From there, I honed my craft, got a LOT of stage experience, and started making connections. I’ve been working consistently ever since.

What do you love about performing on stage?
I’m such a theatre nerd – I love all the dramaturgy work, getting to really know a script, and finding real things to build a character from. I also love making audiences laugh, it is incredibly satisfying when a joke lands.

What is your favorite and most memorable role you ever played? Why?
Hmmm…that’s a tough one! I think it would be a toss-up between Violet Newstead in 9 to 5: The Musical , and Heidi in [title of show]. I loved Violet because it was the West Coast premier. I had never seen the show, so having a blank slate was a lot of fun. I also chose Heidi in [tos] becauseit was a terrifying role for me to play! She is such a real person, and I am used to playing characters who are more over-the-top. But getting to sing “Way Back to Then” was a highlight in my theatrical career.

If you could pick one actor/actress on Broadway to perform with, who would it be?
My dream would be to perform with Bernadette Peters. That brassy broad is my idol!

Do you have any wacky rituals you do before curtain?
I used to meditate and listen to the first 5 songs on the West Side Story soundtrack before every performance. Now, I take a few breaths, say a prayer, and get after it!

What is one thing you are incredibly proud of?
When I started at CSUEB, there wasn’t any option for students who wanted to major in musical theatre. In my 4 years there, I helped shape and write a new curriculum for students who wanted to concentrate on musical theatre. So now and forever, you can attend Cal State East Bay and major in Theatre Arts, with an emphasis in musical theatre.

What is one fact, or fun thing or special/hidden talent that we don’t know about you?
I’ve been bartending at a craft brew house for several years now, and I can pour a perfect pint! Trust me, it’s harder than you think.

Don’t miss your chance to see Caitlin O’Leary in Sweet Charity May 5-29, at the historic Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City.

Tickets available at  hillbarntheatre.org