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Hannah Rose DeFlumeri, at 21 a two-year veteran of a national touring show, "The Rocky Horror Show" at Flat Rock Playhouse and New York club singing, owes her discovery to a YouTube video of her stunning performance in a high school play.
"I had been putting up my videos on YouTube for a while, and my senior year we did 'Gypsy,' which is one of my all-time favorites," DeFlumeri said in an interview. The director had cast her as Mama Rose, the iconic Broadway role with an emotional solo. "As a high schooler, you can't really expect too much out of it," she said.
Yet the 5-minute-48-second video of her performing "Rose's Turn" went viral on YouTube and triggered a call from a New York casting director who invited her to audition for the national tour of "Legally Blonde: The Musical."
"I opted to do that instead of college, which took a lot of persuasion on my part with my parents," she said. "I went on tour for nine months, then moved back to New York and have been working ever since and I'm very happy."
DeFlumeri and the rest of the cast open the new Playhouse Downtown production of "Cats" this week. The singer and actress has the big song, "Memory," sung by the character Grizabella.
Here is the Hendersonville Lightning interview with DeFlumeri:
Your hometown, Newtown, Conn., became known worldwide for the Sandy Hook school shooting. What was that like?
It's very strange. I love my community and we've come together in a really inspirational way, I think. I'm proud to call it my home. I was in New York at the time. I came home immediately, and just lived with my family... It's a very small town. I love Newtown and always will. I would walk through a grocery store in New York with a sweater on that said Newtown and people would stop me. You forget that that name means so much now....
We did this beautiful tribute concert to Sandy Hook Elementary School called "From Broadway with Love" with a bunch of huge Broadway stars. Me and a bunch of younger New Yorkers that were in the business were in the ensemble, and I got to sing backup for Linda Eder. It was stunning.
What happened when you got the audition call for "Legally Blonde?"
I went in three times for (the casting director), the producers and the creative team, and I got it, which is shocking. Really, really crazy. It was a wonderful experience. I learned so much in nine months on the road. I learned so much about the business, about how to keep my body healthy, being a responsible actor. I really grew up a lot. ... I was Vivienne, the mean girl who takes away the boyfriend. ... (After stops from Texas to California to Ohio to Canada) we actually closed the tour in New Haven, Conn., which was amazing because everyone from my community got to come. It was actually one of the best nights of my life because so many people got to come. It was like the most heart-warming thing.
What is your training?
I took voice lessons twice a week in high school, I did every show I could, I took choir, did community theater and an a cappella group after school.
You performed last summer at the Playhouse. How do you like it?
I had friends who worked here before me. They all told me wonderful wonderful things. Last summer I did "Almost, Maine" and "Rocky Horror" and also "Eric Clapton Music on the Rock," which was so much fun. My best friends I have today are the people I met here. Coming back here it's been so warm and welcoming. I love working here, I love the space, I love the people, I love the art that we make. I always feel really fulfilled after having worked here, because you get to create so much.
I've worked really hard. It's a beast of a show but it's stunning. I could have never thought I could be doing "Cats" and doing a production like this that's so new and so innovative and so beautiful and really respects what "Cats" is. I'm so proud of it.
Did you know the show?
In voice lessons in high school, I would sing "Memory" all the time. Actually, my last vocal recital before I graduated I sang "Memory." But I didn't know the show all that well. I knew of it. Once I got the offer, of course I started studying up and watched the movie and listened to the soundtrack, and I do really love the show. It has all the elements that make a wonderful show.
What do you do for fun?
I love the Apple Festival. I was here for it last year, too, and I loved it. I love the food here. We go to Umi and Mezzaluna and West First. We go to the Fish and Pets store. To get away from "Cats" for a while we go play with the dogs. We all live in the same house, so we hang out together there.
What do you aspire to do?
I'm going to be bold and say that I really really would like to be on Broadway. I know it's a cliché but really it's been my goal for a really long time and I don't foresee myself giving up anytime soon.
Why should the theater patron go see "Cats"?
If I was an audience member I would want to come see the show because it is a new perspective on an old piece and because the space is so unique you're going to be completely immersed in the steelyard, which is the set. It's going to be all around you. It's a classic. If you're not going to come for any other reason, come for the music. You're going to be humming almost every song. ... I think it's right for everyone. I can't wait for my family to come.
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Sponsored by United Community Bank, the Van Winkle Law Firm and Audi Asheville, "Cats" runs through Oct. 6 at the Playhouse Downtown. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. All tickets are $40. For tickets call 828-693-0731 or 866-732-8008 go to www.flatrockplayhouse.org.