I’m happy to have the opportunity to spend a little time with Rachel Wallace who is currently touring with the national tour of MARY POPPINS. Rachel is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She loved performing such shows as West Side Story and Sunday in the Park with George. Rachel was previously part of the ensemble of the company before taking over the lead in MARY POPPINS.
What inspired you to perform onstage?
I’ve just been doing it since I can remember. I remember my earliest memories as a child were dancing to records I would have at my house or my grandparents would have at their house. I remember pushing all of the furniture in the living room to the corners so that I would have my own little dance floor wherever I was. That was when I was my happiest. It’s just always been this way.
Tell me about the first time you performed onstage.
I did a couple of little things but the first time I ever had a lead was in the 8th grade. I was cast in a role that usually a boy is in and I just remember that it was the hardest thing I ever had to do but also the most exhilarating. That was when I was hooked. This is when I thought, I have to do this.
Were you in theatre at your high school?
I did. I went to a phenomenal public high school. We didn’t have a specific program for theatre but we had an incredible drama teacher. We had one drama and one musical a year that I would participate in when I wasn’t doing the regional theatre in my area. I think apart from Mary Poppins high school musicals were my greatest times onstage surrounded by your friends and having fun. You only got to do it four times and every single show was so full of excitement.
What were some of the shows that you did when you were in high school?
I did West Side Story. I did the play version of Little Women which I loved doing. We did Carousel, Anything Goes was my favorite. We did Damn Yankees, The Miracle Worker and Up the Down Staircase. Those are the shows we did in high school. I haven’t thought of those in a while. In Up the Down Staircase I was a freshman and got cast as the teacher as the lead in that. Daunting, but thrilled.
Tell me about your time at UNCSA.
Yeah, it’s the North Carolina State College system but it’s specifically a conservatory. I was in the acting program not musical theatre.
Did you do a lot of shows while you were there?
You usually don’t start performing until your junior year but I was cast in a couple of shows before that. We’d perform three shows every year when we were there so we did quite a bit. They kept us very busy there.
Then you decided you wanted to do music more than anything or was drama more what you were interested in?
I’ve always sung and I danced a little bit and then when I got to New York I realized that musical theatre was where I felt most immediately at home. I did a lot of musical theatre at school. That is what I was getting cast in. I made sure that I kept working on those skills and for now musical theatre is where everyone started. I hope to also do straight plays and get back to drama. For now, this is a beautiful way to start my career.
Is Mary Poppins the first big role you had since going to New York?
It is. I had done some regional shows and then had done some workshops in New York City but a show of this magnitude; I’ve certainly never been involved in anything like that. This was my “big break.”
What’s the most memorable role you ever played?
I think the reason I love acting is because each character; I walk away from it having learned something new or discovered something new about either myself or humanity. I honestly have come away from each with something that has been indelible. I would have to say that Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes in high school and now doing Mary Poppins are the two.
Did you watch Mary Poppins when you were growing up?
I did. I was raised on Julie Andrews so I had the records from the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. I saw all the films many times. So Mary Poppins was very much a part of my upbringing.