Alumna getting a taste of Broadway in 'Cupcakes' musical

For most graduates entering the work world, thoughts of classes are left far behind, but for Christina Jackson, there’s a twist — along with some pliés and maybe even a split.

And those are just the dance lessons.

“You always want to keep up your knowledge of the field because things change every day,” said Jackson, a 2013 Schreyer Honors College graduate who is putting her musical theater degree from the College of Arts and Architecture’s School of Theatre to work. “I go to voice lessons and dance classes several times a week. Especially with dance — it’s such a physical activity.”

We shined the spotlight on Jackson, who is currently starring in the off-Broadway musical “Peace, Love and Cupcakes, The Musical,” to learn more about her adventures in the city that never sleeps.

1. Tell us about "Peace, Love and Cupcakes."

It’s a new show off-Broadway at the Vital Theatre in New York. It’s exciting because it’s a world premiere, so the script that we started with in the beginning wasn’t necessarily the one that we ended up with in the end. A lot of changes were made to the storyline along the way, and it’s been fun as a cast member because you get to be part of the process. We made a cast recording, which just got released on iTunes. It has been amazing to be able to use my degree here in New York.

The show is based off the books in a children’s series written by a mom and her daughter — Sheryl and Carrie Berk. They’ve taken the series and made it into a musical. It’s about this girl Kylie who is trying to fit into school because she’s different. I play the mean girl of the show, the arch-nemesis Meredith. It follows how Meredith tries to make Kylie’s life miserable but they realize they can get along. I think it’s a fun show for audiences of all ages.

2. What’s it like playing the mean girl?                                    

The girl who plays Kylie grew up in Ohio, and we knew each other. It’s fun to be the mean girl to someone you’re actually really good friends with. The kids in the audience will boo me or give me the thumbs down, or they’ll come up to me and be mad at me after the show because they don’t understand that I’m just playing a role. I guess it means I’m doing my job, but especially the younger ones don’t realize that it’s not reality.

3. What do you love most being on stage?

In New York, you encounter so many people on the streets every day that you don’t have any connection to. I love not necessarily knowing the people in the audience, but in those two hours or so, you’ve shared an experience with hundreds of people. You might not know them, you might not ever see them again or talk to them, but I love that and you share that experience with them. And they all take something different away from it. Nobody walks out of the theater with the same experience either — it means something unique to everyone.

4. What does a typical “day in the life” look like?

I wake up very early around 5:15 a.m. to sign in for different open call auditions. I go to all kinds — for Broadway shows, off-Broadway, cruise lines, Web series. Depending what type it is, I’ll have to perform a dance audition, singing or acting songs or parts from shows. Sometimes my agent, Eddie, will set up appointments for auditions. I usually go to one to three auditions per day.

Then I have my show at night, generally. Then there’s fitting in a side job to pay the rent, taking dance lessons and voice lessons. My voice teacher comes in from PSU to teach voice lessons to alums. Something unique about this business is that no day is ever exactly the same. My days are so drastically different because I don’t have a set schedule. I work my schedule around my shows and what auditions are that week.

5. What is an audition like?

Typically there are about three people in the room watching you, but it really depends. I’ve been in auditions where one person is watching you and where a panel of 20 people is watching you. You will have more people in an audition when you get more callbacks further down the line in the audition process because they add on more creative team members to get their perspective and make sure everyone has a say in the casting process.

6. What would be your absolute dream role?

I would love to be Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde, The Musical.” That’s a dream role. I also love “Bring It On,” and I would love to be Eva in that.

7. What’s it like living in New York City?

I have wanted to live in New York since I first came here when I was 12, and it’s a dream come true. I can’t even describe it. I was living in Queens when I first graduated and starting in January I moved right near Times Square, so I’m in the heart of everything now. I get up every morning, and I can see the Empire State Building from my window. This may be so cheesy but I look outside, and it’s the biggest motivator to do my job. The harder I work, the bigger chance I have to stay here — I never want to leave. I think I knew what I was in for because I have visited New York so much, and I went on a national tour when I was a kid, and I got a taste of professional acting life when I was younger. I never wanted to do anything else. One good thing is that I can walk everywhere. Especially living near Times Square — everything is within a 20-minute walk.

Not everything is perfect. You can feel a little lonely sometimes, and it’s far from home. My parents and friends from Cincinnati aren’t able to visit a whole lot, unfortunately. But I’ve come to make so many friends here that every day it’s really starting to feel more and more like home.

8. Have you met or seen anyone famous?

One of my side jobs is working for a catering company. I catered a party for Chelsea Handler so I hung out with her for a day. Joan Rivers once asked me for directions on the street!

9. What advice do you have for scholars chasing their dreams post-graduation?

My rule was always say “yes” to opportunities. There were so many things that I didn’t know why I was saying yes to them but they led me to so many incredible places. Jumping at every opportunity that I possibly can makes me crazy busy, but it allows me to meet so many people. I don’t think that I would be where I am at my career so soon after graduation without meeting those people and taking those risks. Take every chance that comes your way.

10. What’s next?

I have been offered a couple of different contracts for regional theaters but I would love to go back on tour or go on a cruise ship. This is the time in my life that I want to travel. I would love to do a show that allows me to do that. The last time I was on tour I was 12 or 13 years old so I think it’s time again. Some jobs you learn about months in advance. With others, you could be a replacement for a show, and they need someone the next day. Literally.

It’s the weird thing about this career. You have to live in such a last-minute lifestyle. You can never be completely settled. It’s fantastic if you like adventures — if you like the unknown — but it can be stressful if you crave consistency. Once you live here, you understand that there’s so much more to the city than Times Square or the Empire State Building. You can never be bored. Moving here the day after graduation was a whirlwind, but in looking back, I know it was the best thing I could have done.

“Peace, Love and Cupcakes, The Musical” runs through Sunday, April 27, at the Vital Theatre in New York City.

You can find out more about Christina Jackson on her website.


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Last Updated April 29, 2014