This is the life: living out of a suitcase, skipping town just when you start feeling at home, putting on a show wherever you go and then rushing off to another city just to do it all over again. It’s the same story every time. It’s demanding and draining and uncomfortable and nerve-racking. And it’s everything Amanda Rose ’02 has ever wanted. It’s everything she’s ever dreamed of.
And it’s everything she hoped it would be.
“It’s so fulfilling that I can ignore the challenges of traveling. You just find a way to work it out, no matter how hard it is,” says Rose, an actress and singer who traveled with the national tours of Dr. Doolittle and Oklahoma! before she landed a role in Wicked, first on Broadway and then on national tour. “Being on the road is tough – it is. But I never get tired of performing. I never get tired of hearing that audience cheer. That’s how you know you’re doing something important – because it’s important to the audience. That’s what I do it for. That never gets old.”
But it never gets easy, either. Travel woes and having no real place to call home aside: Even after three years working on Wicked, Rose still isn’t so practiced that she won’t forget her lines.
“You know, you’re out there all day, it becomes mechanical, you start to think about what you’re going to have for lunch or whatever. And then: blankness,” sighs Rose, who gets called back to Wicked to fill in for actresses on leave every so often, though her current gig is outside of Philadelphia, playing the title role in a regional production of Gypsy.
“This is a dream role for me. I’ve loved Gypsy, of course, forever. It’s really been an amazing opportunity to have such a dominant role, and it’s exciting because my character takes a big turn and really develops,” says Rose, who stars alongside Emmy nominee Robert Newman (Guiding Light, Curtains) and four-time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh (Law and Order, Golda’s Balcony). “Tovah is great – she’s an old-school theater actor, so it’s a completely different process. It’s been really great to watch and learn from her.”
It’s all a learning process for Rose, who appreciates every role she’s ever had for whatever it has to offer, and she reciprocates by giving each part everything she has.
“I feel like every show I do is the best show I’ve ever done. They’ve all been amazing in their own ways,” she says. “Besides, if you do one awesome show and then compare everything to it – if you set the bar so high – you’ll be miserable. You move on so quickly in this business, you just can’t look back.”
But if you do look back, you’ll see that Rose’s roles have steadily increased in prominence and prestige. Remember, this Broadway actress started out right where all the dreamers start out in New York City: in line to audition.
“Auditioning becomes your job. It’s not scary. It’s not exciting. It’s just what you do,” says Rose, who remembers sitting all day long only to be turned down over and over and over again. “You get over it. You go on with the rest of your life. You’ve got to get to another audition, so you can’t let it bother you. You come in, sing your songs, and they either love it or they hate it. Sure, it’s disappointing sometimes. There’s no human out there who can’t get their hopes up if they really want the part. But you can’t let it bring you down. You just do what you have to do.”
And that means taking whatever work you can find to support yourself: retail, bartending, catering, office work, singing Christmas carols as a Rockette. Whatever.
“The best side job I had was ushering Broadway shows, though,” says Rose. “It was during show times, and no one auditions during show times, so it worked with my schedule. Plus, I got to see the insides of different theaters.”
Including the St. James Theatre. The first time she ushered there, she recognized a metal bar in the balcony and remembered putting her feet on it as a kid – leaning over it and nearly tumbling out of the balcony with excitement. It had been her first trip to New York, her first Broadway musical, and it had changed the course of her life.
“All of a sudden, I could remember that feeling all over again,” says Rose. “That feeling of knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t care what it was going to take, I had to do that one day.”
And she made it happen. That day is here.
“At first, it was always about getting a Broadway show. And then I got it. So, now what?” shrugs Rose. “I love Wicked, and I want to do another Broadway show, but that’s not the important thing to me. I just want to perform. I’m just happy doing what I’m doing.”
She is, after all, living the dream.
– Alicia Lutz ’98
Photos by Leslie McKellar