Young Actress Develops Stage Presence in ‘Les Miserables’
Abby Chapman has the gift of gab. If you ask, she will proudly say that she is the talkative one in her family. So it was only natural that she considered acting as a pastime.
After a few performances with Dallas Summer Musicals Academy, Abby thought maybe she had found her niche. A family trip to New York confirmed it.
“We saw ‘Wicked,’ and I loved it so much,” said Abby, a fifth-grader at Parish Episcopal School. “There was no question. I just knew that this was what I wanted to do, and I’m not going to stop.”
Abby’s first Broadway experience gave her the push, and she’s been on a “role” since.
At 10 years old, Abby has nearly five years of acting under her belt. She boasts a resume of 11 performances via camps and theaters, including Repertory Company Theatre’s summer workshop performance of “Peter Pan” and Dallas Theater Center’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Beth Chapman, the young performer’s mother, had initial worries about the stress that could weigh on her daughter from juggling school and extracurricular activities.
“I always think it’s too much and she can’t do it, but she does,” said Chapman, a Preston Hollow resident. “She has so much energy that she manages to put in that time to be a part of a production, but also do other sports, have her friends and still do well in school. She’s definitely happiest when she’s a part of a production, so we’ve always gone with it.”
Her latest performance was in DTC’s modernized production of “Les Miserables,” as young Eponine and as part of the ensemble. The hit musical ran from June 27 through Aug. 17 on a raked stage at The Wyly Theatre, allowing the audience to feel the energy of the show. The diverse cast featured a combination of local actors and actors from theaters around the country, with Nehal Johsi as Jean Valjean.
Abby found out about the auditions for “Les Miserables” following her performance in DTC’s “A Christmas Carol.” The process was more extensive than her previous auditions, leaving her a bit antsy. She attended open auditions in January and general auditions in April. She got the call in May saying that she was one of two chosen to play Young Eponine.
“It was really hard. I thought I didn’t get in because it usually doesn’t take that long,” Abby said. “That’s why I was so shocked when they said they wanted me for Young Eponine.”
Long rehearsal days began in May, and Abby soaked in every minute. She learned from some of the best, including Ed Watts, who played Javert, and Dorcas Leung, who played Cosette, to name a few.
She also faced some challenges along the way. One in particular was shifting gears from one character to the next. One minute she’d be frolicking around as Young Eponine, singing the lyrics to “Master of the House” and serving food to customers at the inn with a side of sass. Minutes later she’s a homeless girl. With help from cast mates, she learned the value of not only knowing and becoming a character, but also adding individuality.
“You get to create your own character,” she said. “Maybe everyone could play the same character, but not one character will be the same, and that’s what I love about making it your own character.”