For most aspiring actors and actresses, starring in a Broadway production is a dream that requires years of school, practice, hard work and dedication.
Sophomore Kyla Cherry has already done that.
Cherry began modeling at the young age of nine, her work featured in print and commercial ads. Cherry competed in modeling competitions and at age 11, was chosen to play the role of young Nala in the Broadway production of Disney’s The Lion King.
“One day I got a casting call for [the show]. I auditioned at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Mo., and I made it to the second round of auditions in New York City,” Cherry said.
Although Cherry had never been involved in theater before, her talent and charm were enough to move the judges in her favor.
“I was very surprised when I got the role, but I didn’t quite understand the extent of how big it was. My parents were thrilled. They told everyone,” she said.
Cherry’s father and younger brother accompanied her on tour. The show had four tours spanning a six month period, each targeted toward different regions of the world. There was a tour overseas, another in New York City, one for the west coast of the U.S. and another for the east coast. Cherry was featured on The Gazelle tour, targeted toward the east coast. She did shows in Buffalo, N.Y., Minneapolis, Baltimore and Birmingham, Ala.
“It was easy to get adjusted because I love to travel, so picking up and moving every month and a half was fun for me,” she said.
She even got a little piece of home while she was away. While performing in Minneapolis, her school paid for her fifth-grade class to see her perform.
Cherry described her experiences on Broadway as amazing. One of the most rewarding experiences was the environment and being surrounded by so many talented actors. Their hunger, dedication and enthusiasm was a big influence on her.
“Being exposed to so much at a young age taught me that there’s more to life than going to school to get a good job. In school, teachers tell you that you can do anything you put your mind to. To me, the actors and actresses [I met] were the people that believed in that statement the most. Those were the people that lived and breathed their dreams and did it to the fullest,” Cherry said.
The downside of being in the production was that children were contracted for short periods of time. To play Nala, there were special physical requirements. Nala had to be a young African American girl, 4 feet 9 inches or shorter and meet weight requirements for the $15,000 costume. Young Nala’s costume included an air-brushed skin tone leotard intricately decorated with white paint. Young Nala also wore skin tone harem pants. The main part of the outfit was a hand-beaded corset. With such a complex costume, the actress would regularly have to be replaced with a new girl who could fit.
“Leaving the tour was the hardest part. After traveling and spending so much time with the actors, singers, dancers and stage crew, we almost became family,” Cherry said.
After her contract with The Lion King ended, Cherry returned to school and made getting an education her main concern. She did, however, continue modeling.
“I competed in modeling competitions such as AMTC in Los Angeles and did many print and commercial ads for companies such as Hallmark. I took a break from modeling because I’m only 5 feet 4 inches and most jobs require models to be 5 feet 8 inches or taller,” she said.
One thing she misses about being in The Lion King is the ability to travel. She recalls that her interest in fashion came from the many things she was exposed to while touring.
“I already had a deep love for clothes at a young age, but traveling and seeing much more than Missouri really sharpened my creative side,” she said.
Cherry also took an interest in hair and makeup after seeing the makeup artist on tour. She even went on to get her cosmetology license before graduating high school.
Although Cherry is more focused on her future in fashion, she would definitely do it all over again if she could.
Story by sophomore Neesha Edwards