BY CARY GINELL
Noelle Marion, who stars in Cabrillo Music Theatre’s upcoming production of Bye, Bye Birdie, is one of the most talented young performers on the Ventura County scene. At 26, Noelle is already a veteran performer of a number of Southern California productions. Birdie marks her sixth appearance with Cabrillo. Recently, Noelle spent six months on tour in Hong Kong Disneyland, playing Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle in a revue called The Golden Mickeys. She is an immensely talented, charismatic performer with a beautiful singing voice to go along with being an excellent comedienne and dancer. We sat down with Noelle recently for a talk about various subjects, which will be presented in several segments dealing with her auditioning history, her trip to Hong Kong, and her current role as Kim McAfee in Bye, Bye Birdie, which runs from July 18 – 27 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.
VCOS: When we went to your website, the first thing we saw was this quote from Katharine Hepburn that says, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” Why is this meaningful to you and what rules have you broken?
NOELLE: As you know, I love old celebrities, old movies, books, TV shows, fashion, all of it from the past. Katharine Hepburn and others are people who I’ve admired for years and looked up to. But I also love quotes. As for that one in particular, when I was in school I was really, really shy. It wasn’t until middle school or even later that I started to break out of my shell, but I would always think of mischievous things to do. I loved practical jokes, nothing harmful, of course, so when I got a little older and outgrew that shyness, I started acting on those impulses, but I put it on the website because I like to have fun and don’t necessarily obey all the rules (laughs). In regards to my career, people have a set of rules where they say, “never do this at an audition” or “never do this to get a part,” and the fact is, you can do everything wrong and get the part or do everything right and still not get the part.
VCOS: What are some of the craziest things you’ve done for an audition?
NOELLE: When I auditioned for Once Upon a Mattress for Cabrillo, which was 2 1/2 years ago, I knew Lewis Wilkenfeld, but he wasn’t directing, it was Richard Israel. I had been the monitor for the audition the day before, so I kind of got a feel for his sense of humor. So I thought that he would take to this idea I had. I was auditioning for the part of Lady Larken, who is pregnant in the show. So I thought I’d take a risk and see what happens. I went in to the audition with a pillow stuffed in my dress. They had seen me the day before and knew that I obviously wasn’t pregnant, so when I came in they were, of course, shocked. And I sang “I Get a Kick Out of You” to my “unborn child.” I described the scene as “Lady Larken: Act III.” They were laughing throughout so I thought it was a pretty good risk and I ended up getting the part.
Then, when I auditioned for Annie, which Lewis did direct, I hadn’t played a lead with Cabrillo at that point and wasn’t quite sure how I was viewed. Sometimes I think my exterior is a bit deceiving. I wanted to play the role of Lily St. Regis, but I don’t necessarily look like a comedian. So I thought I should show how I can really be funny, so I came in to the audition wearing a wig styled in what would be appropriate for the show – ripped fish nets and a dress that I thought would suit Lily, who was a floozy type of character. I had a little bottle of vodka stuffed in my garter belt, so I took a swig and acted kind of drunk, put it on the piano, looked at Chris Kimbler, who was the accompanist, and I said, “Awright, takeitaway!” And I sang “Dance 10, Looks 3,” which is the T&A song from A Chorus Line. So I ended up getting that part, too. So, taking big chances sometimes pays off.
VCOS: So all these quotes on your website are from idols of yours?
NOELLE: Yes. There are times when I’m really into a certain genre or celebrity. I’ve gone through a lot of different phases, but right now, I just can’t get enough of George Burns and Gracie Allen and Jack Benny. When I was three years old, I just loved The Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland. I couldn’t get enough of her. Then, when I was ten, I couldn’t get enough of My Fair Lady, the movie version. I once watched it three times in one day, and that’s a three-hour movie! But I love Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire, folk music from the sixties and seventies with people like Joan Baez and Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary, John Denver, Carole King. Basically, I love anything between 1930 and 1975, that’s my era. I also love The Dick Van Dyke Show, that was a big phase. I would watch that show constantly.
VCOS: You’ve played mostly light comedy roles, but tell me about your serious side.
NOELLE: I did Sweeney Todd in college, but since then I’ve done a lot more comedy and lighthearted roles, but that was kind a surprise. We did it during my senior year of college at Pepperdine, and I kind of thought I would be auditioning for Johanna. That was where I thought I would fit into the equation. But it was my senior year and I thought that I had a chance for this. So I auditioned and ended up getting called back for it, but I also got called back for the Beggar Woman. Well, I thought to myself, “No way! Why am I even on this list for this part? This is NOT going to happen.” The previous year, I had played Miss Dorothy in Thoroughly Modern Millie. So I didn’t even think there was a chance I would be up for the Beggar Woman. So I went to the callback for Johanna and thought it went well, but then I went to the callback for the Beggar Woman and I thought, wow, this is a lot deeper than I would have anticipated. I had seen the show and read up on the material and did my homework, but it was one of those things where I never even thought there was a chance I’d be called back for it so I didn’t focus a lot of attention on it. But I ended up getting the role and it was probably one of the best experiences that I’ve had in a show. Even to date. Just getting to see things from her perspective and to play something so different from myself was just so fascinating. I just loved playing that role because there is just so much to her. She’s such a vital part of that story, but you don’t know that until the end, which makes it that much more tragic. Maybe someday I’ll get to play her again, I really hope so.
VCOS: So do you embrace challenges?
NOELLE: I would like to think so. I certainly like to take on challenges and see how I can grow artistically. That’s kind of part of being an artist is taking on different types of roles and trying to grow and stretch yourself.
In our next installment, Noelle talks about her six months in Hong Kong Disneyland.