Upstate child makes Broadway debut in ‘Waitress’

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Charlotte Bates and Regan Ciccarelli played Lulu in the Greenville engagement of Broadway musical "Waitress." Photo by Jeremy Williams

For some 5-year-olds, being onstage in front of hundreds of people might be a little scary, but for Regan Ciccarelli, it’s just one big adventure.

Regan found an interest in theater after seeing “The Sound of Music” at the Brooks Center in Clemson, where she and her family live. Her mom, Leigh Anne Clark, says, “Regan was mesmerized. She just stared at the kids, and when it was over she didn’t want to leave, and she just kept asking, ‘How did those kids get on that stage?’”

Photo provided.

Regan had no acting experience before being cast as one of two actresses playing Lulu, the daughter of Jenna, the main character of “Waitress,” when it traveled to Greenville in May 2018. “We only gave her a 50-50 shot of actually doing the audition,” she jokes. “Regan is a big talker, but she walked in there and she did it.”

Both Regan and the rest of her family were sad to see the Greenville show end, so Clark reached out to the casting agent to see if Regan could audition for the Broadway production. The agent told her they were not looking at the time, and life went on.

On a Friday afternoon in early December, Clark got a call asking them to come audition the following Monday at 3. With this call came a whirlwind of decisions to be made by Clark and her husband that resulted in Regan being offered to play Lulu half of the time on Broadway, starting rehearsals only days after the initial audition call.

“We basically had to decide that night,” Clark remembers, “and we basically said, how do we ever explain to Regan that she had a chance to be on Broadway and we couldn’t make it happen.” Clark and Regan moved to New York immediately to begin four rehearsals before her Broadway debut on Dec. 12.

After finding an apartment from a cast member to sublet, everything fell into place.

Logistically, it’s just Regan and her mom in New York, but her dad, Dion Ciccarelli, will switch off, as well. Her father currently lives in Clemson with Regan’s sister. Life in New York brought big lifestyle changes for their family, including riding the subway 7 miles to get to the theater, learning how to do laundry in the basement, and adjusting to grocery shopping in the city. “From Clemson, living in New York City is basically like living on another planet,” Clark says.

Additionally, it means being away from half of their family for a few months. Regan’s contract goes through Feb. 3, but her contract could be extended through June if Regan meshes well with the actress cast as her mother, Jenna. Next week, Sara Bareilles, the composer and writer of the Broadway show, will be starting the role of Jenna.

Regan backstage with Drew Gehling. Photo provided.

“Regan is seemingly oblivious to it and just goes with the flow and is having a great time,” Clark says. While the process has been a bit stressful for Regan’s parents, Clark says she knows that she is providing her daughter with an invaluable experience.

“I think that this has been an incredible opportunity for her. She’s learning that life in Clemson isn’t all there is. She is seeing life in New York City, and she knows that there are all kinds of people out there that you do not see in Clemson. She is seeing that the world is very, very different than her home,” Clark explains. “She is also basically learning that she has a job, and in order to do her job, she has to go to bed at a certain time and be at the theater on time. She has a routine that she follows, so I think all of that is really good. She knows when to be quiet backstage. I really think every single thing about this experience has been positive for her. Every day here is fun.”

Clark also explains how much Regan loves the show and being onstage. “She doesn’t even pay attention to the audience. Our biggest thing for Regan is that she has fun backstage and the cast members play with her, and then she goes on stage and talks with them and dances with them, so she doesn’t really see it as being onstage. There wasn’t even a learning curve.”

Regan splits the role with another young actress, so she is in four shows per week, but works three days, as one day is a double-header. She knows all of the songs by heart and asks every morning, “Do I get to be Lulu today?”

Regan with her father, Dion Ciccarelli. Photo provided.

Regan says she “loves it in New York,” and in as honest an answer as a 5-year old could give, she says her favorite part of playing Lulu is that “I don’t have to go to school!” though Clark assures her that she will still have to start kindergarten in the fall.

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