Say Hello to the new Dolly!

Story by: Chad Mason

Walking in the footsteps of giants can be a humbling task, especially when one of them is your mother.

Laura Larson, a fourth-year Music Theatre Performance student, will be playing the lead Dolly Levi in an upcoming Theatre Sheridan production. It’s a role her own mother took on at Stratford in 2005.

“It’s a privilege and a challenge to portray this larger than life character,” said Larson.

No stranger to the spotlight, Laura comes from a show biz family. Her parents are both trumpet players for the stage, in addition to having a mother whose been a leading lady.

The younger Larson has also taken on some iconic roles in her brief career. While in high school, Larson danced back into the ’80s with a starring role as Maureen in Rent and Wendy Jo in Footloose.

Among many other roles, Larson took the stage as the New Postulant in the Sound of Music, produced by the award-winning Drayton Festival Theatre.

On and off the stage, Larson projects a larger than life personality that radiates and warms up everyone around her.

“It’s hard not to be excited around her,” said Mackenzie Salhany, a former Music Theatre performance student. “She’s a very positive person.”

But before curtain calls and beyond the beautifully crafted sets, the performers have to go through a rigorous process of not only preparing for their roles, but actually getting the part.

For Larson and her entire class, that begins with a general audition for a role in one of the five plays that Theatre Sheridan will put on first semester.

To prepare for the audition, Larson and her colleagues had to prepare two contrasting songs that work well together as well as a monologue, ideally geared towards the production in which they hope to be cast.

There was no other production Larson wanted to be a part of than Hello Dolly.

The general audition is followed by preparing callback material, where the point is to show yourself off in the truest form.

“You can find points of your life on stage,” said Larson.

But prepping begins way before the casting call.

Like some of their inspirational Hollywood counterparts, a healthy lifestyle is hugely important. Larson believes in keeping physically healthy, as well as mentally and vocally.

Lawson characterizes her voice as one of her best assets. She’s prepared to belt out any song at any time. She follows a strict regime of steaming her throat, doing multiple vocal exercises and a list of other exercises and remedies.

However, Larson believes the source material of the productions is the most important element.

“Most important thing to do is to convey the material,” she said.

Larson fell in love with acting when she saw Cynthia Dale as Guinevere in the Stratford Festival’s production of Camelot. It was then she said her life changed.

“Theatre is a way to bring joy and light to people,” she said.

Larson says working on productions like Hello Dolly at Theatre Sheridan sometimes feels like she’s doing a huge show at a Mirvish theatre.

She looks forward to Hello Dolly, not only for her love of the story but for the opportunity to break out into song and dance, something she does regularly.

“The songs are glorious,” she said. “Classical golden age musical theatre.”

Larson is completely in love with the characters’ story arcs and believes for all of Dolly’s faults, she has a good heart.

“I understand where she is coming from,” she said.

Larson may be portraying a damned exasperating woman, as one of the characters point out to Dolly in the musical, this time round. But for Larson, the curtain will soon be drawn and the lights, like her future will shine hot and bright on any stage.

“I do this to touch people the way theatre has touched me,” said Larson.

Directed by Avery Saltzman, Theatre Sheridan’s production of Hello Dolly will run from Nov. 25 to Dec. 7 at MacDonald-Heaslip Hall.