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Lead Actress in Grease: Cat Wheelehan

Name: Cat Wheelehan
Year: Junior
Major: B.A. Theatre Performance

I sat down with Miss Wheelehan for breakfast to get the scoop on her experience with Grease, her perspective on acting, and what she’s learned so far. I quickly learned that after playing the shy and innocent Sandy in VCUTheatre’s Grease, Cat Wheelehan isn’t too far from home with her former character. Simply put, Cat is a “Jeans and T-Shirt kind of girl.”

HerCampus: You were recently in Grease. Upon auditioning, did  you expect to get the role of Sandy?

Cat: Not at all. On the form under character preference, I said that I wanted a role with strong vocals…or Sandy. I was open, but did not expect to get the role.

HerCampus: Was this your first mainstage show at VCU?
Cat: No, it’s not. I was a backup singer in The Who’s Tommy my freshman year.

HerCampus: I saw that, by the way and it was great.
Cat: Thank you, very much! We had fun. And I love the The Who, so it was a very cool show for me to do.
HerCampus: What other shows have you been in, here at VCU?

Cat: My favorite to date, was Henry V [at Shafer Street Playhouse] last year. I played the Archbishop of Canterbury and Alice. She [Alice] spoke French, so I had to learn a little bit of French for the show. It was my first Shakespeare play, and we had a wonderful team on the show, so it was a wonderful experience.
Her Campus: Describe how the audition process went for Grease
Cat: The first part of the audition is a giant cattle call. It literally is like rounding up cattle from the department. As a BFA (Bachelors in Fine Arts), you are required to audition for a mainstage show. And, because the show was Grease, anybody and everybody who could sing were very excited to audition. And, Patti D’Beck was directing. She had a huge hand in the original revival of the show, and worked on Broadway previously; everyone was psyched to try and get the chance to work with her.

The first phase of the audition was a monologue and a 50’s song. A group of 10, goes in one by one and auditions. Then, they post callbacks, which is a dance audition. We hand-jived our little patooties off, it was great. After that, another cut was made, people sang and read for different roles. The next day, a cast list was up.
Her Campus: Would you say there were a majority of theatre majors at the audition? Or were there some non-majors there?
Cat: It’s always a majority of theater majors, and I think that’s primarily because people don’t realize that you don’t have to be a theatre major to audition for mainstage shows. They are open to everyone.
Her Campus: What was your favorite thing about the show?
Cat: Watching all the characters grow up a little bit. I don’t think of it as a show about a girl who likes a boy, and then changes herself for him. Danny makes some changes too. I think everyone grows into a bigger and better version of themselves. Everyone’s discovering something that they didn’t think was there. And something about the end of the show, where they sing “We Go Together”, you know that they really mean it.

Her Campus: Was it easy to portray such an innocent character like Sandy?
Cat: Oh yes. I feel very type-cast for this role. Haven’t dated a lot of guys, and like Sandy I’ve been treated the way Danny treated her. So it’s not a far cry from the truth for me. Her character made absolute sense. I related to her difficulty, seeing that change that she wants to make, and not knowing how to make it herself.

Her Campus: In which ways were you different from Sandy?
Cat: Because I’ve had the experience of boys being great and then terrible in the next minute, I was smarter than Sandy. Whereas, for Sandy it was her first time going through this experience, and it wasn’t for me.
Her Campus: Describe in one word how it feels when you’re up there on stage, and the spotlight is on you.
Cat: Wow. It’s, exhilarating. Because, you never know what’s going to happen next.
Her Campus: How long have you been acting, and where did you get started?
Cat: Since I was 6 years old. I started working professionally when I was 9 years old at the Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg. I was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Since then, I’ve known this is what I wanted to do. There’s never been anything else.
Her Campus: Which has been your favorite character that you have performed?
Cat: Ooh. Can I pick three?
Her Campus: (Laughs) Sure.
Cat: (In no particular order) 1. Sandy 2. Alice from Henry V, she was a sassy pants. 3. Andromache from Troy Women, she was a mother it was a really dramatic role.
Her Campus: What is your dream role?
Cat: Oh god! My dream role? Hmm. I would love to play Clara, in The Light in the Piazza.
Her Campus: What have you learned from the Grease experience?
Cat: Growing as a vocalist, because this show was a vocal challenge for me. Biggest challenge, and biggest reward.
Her Campus: What do you feel you’ve learned through VCU Theater?
Cat: Be you. No matter, how many girls look like you, or have the same vocal range as you, and are auditioning for the same part, they’re not going to do it like you. You are all you have. Take care of yourself, love yourself. What I have to offer is enough.
Her Campus: Where do you see yourself in 10 years, as an actress?
Cat: Eating. I’d love to be in a bigger city. I’ve always seen myself as a ‘go where the work is’, kind of person. I’d also love to work with some professional companies, go on a national tour of something.
Her Campus: What have you learned from your senior actors (Upperclassmen)?
Cat: Respect yourself. It is okay to cry, and to most importantly have fun. Because, if it’s not fun, then why do it?
Her Campus: You theater majors always have to dress in blacks for your classes. How would you describe your style outside of the black?
Cat: I love comfy socks. I’m pretty casual. I don’t really fit in anywhere. I kind of make things up as I go along. I would say, I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl, who can clean up if she has to.
Her Campus: Who is your favorite actor?
Cat: Stage: Joseph Leo Bwarie. Screen Actors: Dustin Hoffman and Adrien Brody.

Photo credits go towards:
Nancy Balogh at Beautiful Expressions Photography
Grease photos: 
Emily Stuart

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