“Kim has been my dream role for years!” Diana told the group of eager Signature patrons who attended this month’s Brown Bag Thursday. “When Eric [Schaeffer] called me to say I got the part, I was so shocked I didn’t say anything for 10 seconds!” she said with a laugh.
Her love of musicals began by watching Disney movies as a child. By the time she was performing in her high school musicals, she knew that she wanted to do theatre full-time. She graduated from the Cornish College for the Arts in Seattle in 2008. Her first experience with Miss Saigon was when her older sister gave her a copy of the original London Cast Recording. Diana became so wrapped up in the story that she stayed up until 4am to finish the CD. “I was bawling so hard by the end of it,” she admitted.
“It’s a challenging role to break into,” she explained. Theatres often cast Kim from a well-known group of actresses who have played the part before. When Diana received an invitation from a friend to audition for Signature’s Miss Saigon, she quickly put together a video sample without much hope that it would come to anything. When she was offered the part, she prepared to move to perform her first major role on the East Coast.
Diana soon bonded with her fellow cast members. “This cast is so supportive, it’s like a family!” she said. That camaraderie turned out to be very important when Jason Michael Evans, playing Kim’s American G.I. lover, pulled a muscle in his vocal chords. Diana remembers how Director Eric Schaeffer patiently worked with them through this process. “[Eric] was so supportive. He even drove Jason to the doctor’s office!”
In the end, Jason’s understudy Gannon O’Brien stepped into the role with only days before the first public performance. “The first time Gannon and I ran a show the whole way through was in front of an audience, with all of my family watching!” Diana told us. In spite of the pressure, everyone was very calm, and she counts herself lucky to work with such a talented team.
Will she take her talent even further east for the upcoming London West End revival scheduled next year by Cameron Mackintosh? She said that regardless of what happens, “it’s really cool to just get an audition!”
For now, she continues to bring poignant power to Signature’s Kim night after night. “Kim is a different person in every way from beginning to end. She doesn’t give up. She does it all with such strength and purpose, because she has to,” Diana told us. “It would break my heart to not be 100% invested in this show and give it the energy it deserves.”
After talking with Diana, it’s easy to see that this upcoming actress has quite a bit in common with the role she loves.