October 17, 2017
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  • In “Finding Neverland,” which comes to the Hippodrome from June 27 through July 2, Pasadena native Sarah Marie Charles appears as a member of the ensemble.
    In “Finding Neverland,” which comes to the Hippodrome from June 27 through July 2, Pasadena native Sarah Marie Charles appears as a member of the ensemble.
  • Sarah Charles
    Sarah Charles

Come Full Circle: Pasadena Native Sarah Marie Charles Pursues Dreams Of Performing

Dylan Roche
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June 14, 2017

On a Friday night in late summer 2016, around 8:00 or 9:00pm, Sarah Marie Charles was surprised to receive a call from her agent outside of normal business hours, but the news was good — she had an appointment on Monday morning to audition for an ensemble role in the national tour of “Finding Neverland.”

The Pasadena native turned New Yorker was excited but daunted. “I had 20 pages of material to learn in two days, and I wasn’t going to have a lot of free time,” she said.

She was working double shifts as a waitress on Saturday and Sunday, and she knew she’d be at the restaurant from 10:00am to 10:00pm both days. But she worked the shifts, taking moments to duck into a stairwell to learn the material that her agent had sent her.

“I went in Monday somehow knowing it all,” she said. “By the end of the day, they told me I had got the job.”

Charles is now traveling the country with the rest of the cast and crew for “Finding Neverland,” and is — as she put it — “loving every second of it.” With the production coming to the Hippodrome in Baltimore from June 27 through July 2, Charles’ fans back home in Pasadena will soon get a chance to see her in the biggest job she’s had so far in her musical theater career.

Big Dreams

Growing up, Charles always had a passion for music and performing. She attended Archbishop Spalding High School, where she did musical theater, a few plays, and “every single chorus program they had to offer.” Outside of school, she took private voice lessons with instructor Deborah Brown.

“She worked hard,” Brown recalled of Charles. “She was tenacious in her goals and achieving her goals as a singer and as an actor. … She was one of my bright spots. I knew she’d be successful because she had that spark of ‘I’m going to do this. I’m not going to have a back-up plan. This is what I want to do.’”

It was in her junior year of high school that Charles decided she wanted to pursue theater professionally. She went on to study musical theater at Ithaca College in New York, and toward the end of her senior year, her talents attracted the attention of the talent agency BRS/Gage. “I liked her work and I called her in for an interview,” said agent Mark Redanty, who saw Charles perform in one of Ithaca’s senior showcases. “She sent me some more links to her work, and then I really fell in love with her. … She’s pretty, she sings well, but the thing that stuck out to me is that she’s a good actress.”

With Redanty and BRS/Gage representing her, Charles moved to New York City shortly after graduation in 2013. Since then, she’s been living the life of a professional actress.

Taking Flight

New York City was a bit of a culture shock for a small-town Pasadena girl. Even life at Ithaca, surrounded by forests and waterfalls in central New York, had been quiet, although studying abroad in London during her junior year had helped Charles prepare for city life. “Moving straight to New York by myself was kind of crazy when I think about it now, but I’m so glad I did,” she said.

A typical day for Charles might include several auditions, either by appointments her agent set up or by waiting in line at open calls at the Actors’ Equity Building in Time Square. As she runs around to various auditions and rehearsals, she tries to fit in food and coffee when she can, and she spends the evenings working dinner shifts at her restaurant job. “It has its ups and downs, and it’s not an easy career by any stretch, but I can’t imagine doing anything else, so it’s worth it,” she said.

It took Charles a little less than a year of auditioning to start getting work, but Redanty observed that “in her second year, she was getting her groove,” something he said is common of young performers. “It’s one thing to learn how to perform; it’s another thing to learn how to get a job,” she said. “I saw that she was finding her legs.”

Brown has made a point of supporting Charles’ career by going to see her perform in some of her professional roles. “She always shines,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter if she’s in the chorus or if she’s the lead, she treats it as the most important thing to ensure continuity in the absolute performance.”

“Finding Neverland”

In “Finding Neverland” — which tells how playwright J.M. Barrie meets a widowed mother and her four sons who engage his inner child and inspire him to write “Peter Pan” — Charles not only appears as a variety of characters in the ensemble but also understudies Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, the mother of the four boys, and Mary Barrie, J.M.’s wife.

So far, the production has visited more than 20 U.S. cities. After closing on a Sunday in one city, the crew packs up and heads to the next stop, where it spends Monday night through Tuesday moving in. Charles explained that the cast usually gets about two hours to acclimate to each new theater along the tour.

All the hard work pays off each night after the show when Charles and her cast mates change back into their street clothes and meet audience members who have been waiting for them outside the theater. “It’s something special to walk out of the stage door and it’s a whole new group of people who got to see the show,” she said. “There are a lot of families, and a lot of times, it’s these kids’ first Broadway musical they’re seeing.”

…And Straight On Till Morning

“Finding Neverland” tours through spring 2018, and Charles said she has an open mind about any future jobs. “I’m down for whatever — TV, film, I’m open to anything.” Musical theater, however, will always be her first love.

And though he can’t see the future, Redanty is confident in Charles. “I think she’s made fans in the industry and will continue to do so,” he said.

Charles’ fan base in Pasadena can learn more about her theatrical pursuits by visiting her online at www.sarah-charles.net, or by ordering tickets to see “Finding Neverland” at the Hippodrome at baltimore.broadway.com.

“It’s a dream come true — I never in a million years thought I’d be performing at the Hippodrome,” Charles said. “I grew up going there and seeing those shows. The fact that it’s come full circle is so special for me. It’s going to be such a fun week, and I’m so excited.”


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