Just last year, Stephanie Wall graduated with a BA in Theatre from Cal State Fullerton, got married, and left for a six-month contract singing for Disney in Hong Kong. July 2009 finds the lovely triple-threat starring as Clara Johnson in the YMTA production of The Light In The Piazza at North Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre. While still an undergrad, Stephanie kept busy in professional theater, appearing as Cindy Lou in The Marvelous Wonderettes, Luisa in The Fantasticks, Jane in Quilters, and Babe O’Day in Good News—among other roles.  Stephanie can currently be seen singing at Disneyland in High School Musical 3 and Playhouse Disney.  Recently, this very busy young musical theater performer took time from her hectic schedule to sit down and answer our questions. Here’s what Stephanie had to say.

So, how and when did this Orange County native become interested in musical theater? 

I actually fell in love with theater and decided to do it as a profession when I did Side Show at Fullerton College. I was playing the role of Violet and had such a wonderful director, Gary Krinke, who really encouraged me to dig deep and research and work my butt off! I fell in love with the process, with acting, and I’ve been hooked ever since! 

   Stephanie as Luisa in The Fantasticks and as Babe O’Day in Good Times
   Stephanie as Cindy Lou

One of your biggest breaks so far was getting to be one of the Marvelous Wonderstudies, covering two of The Marvelous Wonderettes (Cindy Lou and Missy) and taking over the role of Cindy Lou during the production’s run at the El Portal. What is it about that show that’s made it such a huge success, not just here but in New York now as well? 

I think Wonderettes does so well because it’s super fun and silly while still being meaningful!  Also, it’s music that everyone knows and loves … and the audience is involved in the show.  It’s the perfect package. 

How tough was it to understudy two such different roles in the same production?  

Understudying for that show was such a joy.  Being able to watch and learn from, and perform with such incredibly seasoned actresses like Kim Huber, Bets Malone, Julie Dixon Jackson and Kirsten Chandler was wonderful and a huge learning experience. I actually never got to go on as Missy… but maybe in the future! 

Which role was closer to Stephanie, and how?

Between Cindy Lou and Missy, I feel more connected to Cindy Lou. I did beauty pageants when I was really little, which kind of helps me to understand her need to impress everyone with whom she comes in contact. She has this whole “perfection mentality” thing going on and this need to be #1 on every level … which coincides really well with that world. Obviously, she changes and grows so much and is practically a different person in Act Two.  Life teaches her how to love unselfishly and how to be a better person and friend. 

     Stephanie with David on their wedding day, and Stephanie as Belle in Hong Kong

Last year was a big year for you, getting married to fellow musical theater performer David Marchesano and spending six months singing for Disney in Hong Kong. How did you and David meet?  

David and I actually met doing Side Show at Fullerton College! It’s funny because he was in the Ensemble, but then dropped the show to play the title character in Pippin at OCC.  Oh gosh, those days seem like they were an eternity ago, but really it was only about five years!

Is it a challenge being a two-career couple? 

It’s actually nice being married to a fellow actor, because they understand the crazy late night schedules and the need to pursue art and give your spouse space to explore their dream. However, as a newlywed, I understand that I still have a lot to learn! Ask me again in a couple years. (Stephanie laughs)

     Stephanie in Hong Kong

What are your best memories of the time you stayed in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong feels like this crazy fantastic dream that I just woke up from.  It seriously was like a paid honeymoon. We had this lovely little studio that Disney provided for us, along with transportation to and from work, maid service 3 times a week.  We were so spoiled!  

Did you have any difficulty adapting to living in Asia?

The culture there is very different from American culture, which was definitely a learning experience … but all together fun and exciting!   

     Stephanie in High School Musical

You’ve got what would appear to be a perfect day job for a musical theater performer, singing in High School Musical 3 and Playhouse Disney at Disneyland.  What’s it like working at the Happiest Place On Earth? 

Disney has been really kind to me and it truly is the ideal “day job”. They’re so understanding and flexible with scheduling.  They always give me the time that I need to pursue my career in theater.  It’s great. The actual job is wonderful, as well!

Tell me more about Playhouse and High School Musical.

With Playhouse, I get to sing and dance with puppets for hundreds of little kids at a time, all giggling and dancing around.  It’s fantastic. I love kids, and in Playhouse they get really, really excited and it cracks me up! High School Musical is also really high energy and fun, and I get to channel my secret inner pop diva (Stephanie laughs) which is great.

   Stephanie with Blake Ewing McIver and Mary Donnelly Haskell

And now we come to your latest project, Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ gorgeous musical The Light In The Piazza.  Had you seen the show before you auditioned?  

I first saw the show when they aired it on PBS and fell in love with it. I knew that I had to play Clara at some point. 

What is it about Clara that made you say, “I have to play that part!”? 

There’s just something about Clara that I relate to on such a deep level. The way that she sees the world and people’s hearts. She doesn’t mess around with pretense or the need to hold back true emotions and feelings. She doesn’t let her injury limit her and grows so much in the course of the show.  Her journey is challenging and incredible. 

What is it about this particular production that’s going to make it special and different from other Piazzas?  

This production, set in such an intimate environment, is incredibly immediate and focuses deeply on every love relationship within the show. It’s a small arena theater, so you really get to see all of the characters and their own personal journeys … every single one … which I don’t really think was achieved in the proscenium setting of the tour. 

Why do you think this particular show touches so many hearts the way it does?

Our show speaks so much about what it means to truly love someone and allow them to grow and to forgive them, if need be.  If you’re in love, or have ever been in love, it’s impossible not to be touched by the message of this show. 

Where would you like to see yourself career-wise five years from now? 

On Broadway! (Stephanie laughs) Seriously though, I just began my theatrical journey five years ago, and a lot has happened in those five years! If I can make just as much happen in the next five, I’ll be happy!  Obviously Broadway is a goal. I also love travel and a National Tour would be so fun!  I know God has a plan for my life, so whatever road He takes me down, I’m excited to go there!

The Light In The Piazza photos: Ed Krieger

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