Feb 05, 2014

    Carly Rae Jepsen slips into Cinderella's shoes


    WHEN you are a newcomer who takes the charts - and auditory nerves - by storm, as Carly Rae Jepsen did with her runaway single Call Me Maybe, the pop-music playbook dictates what you're supposed to do next: Get back into the studio and record another hit before the clock strikes midnight on your good fortune.

    However, Jepsen has been pursuing a more literal Cinderella story: She took over the lead in Broadway musical Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, and was to begin performances yesterday (this morning, Singapore time).

    The role is a promising but risky opportunity for the 28-year-old, a spunky one-time contestant on Canadian Idol who wears her copper-coloured hair in bangs.

    Cinderella is her first Broadway part and one she inherited from Laura Osnes, who was widely praised and earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance.

    Jepsen's three-month run in the production is not only a chance to show that she is capable of more than Call Me Maybe, but also her opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream of standing on a Broadway stage.

    On a frigid morning, she was on the theatre's stage, rehearsing with the Cinderella cast, including new additions Fran Drescher (who is taking the role of Madame, the stepmother) and Joe Carroll (who will play Prince Topher).

    Under the supervision of director Mark Brokaw and choreographer Josh Rhodes, Jepsen threw herself into some high kicks and giggled, clasping her hands over her face if she missed a dance step or fluffed a line.

    Rhodes urged her to be more excited when she received a coveted invitation to the prince's ball. "What I care about is that you kiss this sucker," he said. "This is gold."

    Jepsen said tentatively: "Like the best thing ever. This is a rare celebration - my first real moment."

    About two years ago, Jepsen released Call Me Maybe, a catchy hit about the delicate proposition of giving your phone number to a crush you've just met.

    The song reached No. 1 in more than a dozen countries, including the United States, bringing her worldwide attention and Grammy nominations for song of the year and best pop solo performance.

    But once that experience ran its course, she was left looking like a possible one-hit wonder; she found herself "a little bit blocked" creatively, she said.

    "It's almost scary to acknowledge it when you're in that place, because it's, like, well, will that stop?" she said.

    Feeling that she wasn't ready to jump into a new album, "I thought, how amazing would it be to take a left turn, somehow, and still come back to this?" Jepsen said.

    "But 'left turn' - I didn't know what that meant."

    The answer came when she was approached by the producers of Cinderella, who knew she was in the hunt for a Broadway role and asked her to audition.

    Her manager, Mr Scooter Braun, said she had "a depth" still unknown to audiences, and "being on Broadway, show after show after show, only adds to her as an overall artist, and allows her to find that happiness and live her dream".

    She has said that it is not her goal or intention to try to imitate Osnes, and her cast mates said they did not expect this of her.

    Now when she returns home at midnight after a long day of work, she finds herself transformed back into a musician who is excited to pick up her guitar again.

    "The best songs happen when you take the pressure and the time off and you just let yourself be," she said. "I come home and I might take the time to write a folk song for a while. It might not be what makes the next record, but it's nice to be back to that place."