Rave Reviews for Mimi West as Lady Caroline Dester in Enchanted April

by   |  April 18, 2013
Mimi West as Lady Caroline Dester in the musical Enchanted April

Mimi West as Lady Caroline Dester in the musical Enchanted April by Elizabeth Hansen and Michael Perry

After losing 18 pounds for a role in which my stage wine and cigarettes were my only friends, I was pleased to have delighted some audience members and reviewers alike.   They came to see me as Lady Caroline Dester in Utah Lyric Opera’s production of Enchanted April. This version was an original creating of Utah’s own Elizabeth Hansen and Michael Perry.

Set in 1920’s England, this show was appealing to older crowd members who retain a fond nostalgia for the “roaring twenties”.   For the younger crowd, my strategy was to capitalize on the recent fascination with Downton Abbey and the new Great Gatsby movie.   I helped create buzz for the show through a social media campaign.   I created advertisements for the show and leveraged our television appearances.   As a result, three-fourths of our shows filled the theater to capacity.

I also invited reviewers to critique the show.   My goal in doing so was to create positive press that I could leverage through my social media campaign to promote the show.   It was an added bonus that their commentary on my performance was completely positive.

Among the ranks of impressed reviewers was Utah Theater Blogger’s Katie Sullivan Porter.   Referring to West as an “outstanding actor,” Porter said the following: “West’s only solo number was the most vibrant of the production as West incorporated innumerable nuances and drove the number with character-ridden objective.”

Kara Henry of Front Row Reviewers Utah offered another glowing review. of West’s “solid acting”. Said Henry, “West brings Lady Caroline to life—and she sparkles with a hard light. Caroline is jaded, spoiled, heartbroken and directionless. West manages to be spoiled without being unsympathetic, and snobbish without seeming rude.”

Lady Caroline is one of the most intriguing roles I have played. She is a lovely and rather enigmatic character. While she remains (for the most part) cordial and demure on the outside, inwardly she is deeply disturbed, even tortured, by her complex situation. Though she boasts a prestigious life as an aristocrat and “the most beautiful woman in all England”, she pines for the love and companionship she once had before her husband died in World War I. She drinks wine and smokes cigarettes most of her time onstage in Hansen and Perry’s production.

Heather Jones of Backstage Utah is keenly aware of the complexities of Lady Caroline Dester. Said Jones, “I have long felt [Carline] would be a difficult character to play. She is written as a perfectly beautiful woman who always sounds angelic and lovely, even if she’s seething inside. The difficulty is that outwardly she is quite flat, but inwardly she is mass of tangled emotions. Hard to portray. Ms. West did an admiral job.”   Jones described West’s performance as “well done” and “wonderful”.

Director Elizabeth Hansen–who also co-wrote the musical–made significant changes to Lady Caroline’s scenes halfway through the run of the show.   I worked closely with her as she rewrote Caroline’s opening and concluding scenes, adding a heart-wrenching monologue toward the end of the show.   These rewrites provided a much deeper insight into the heart of Lady Caroline.

I regret that the reviewers came to see the show before these rewrites.   For a long time, Lady Caroline remained somewhat of a phantom in the show rather than a human being.   The new scenes added a tremendous amount of depth and contrast to her character development.   The new introductory scene shows more of the calculated pretense she maintains in her high-profile station, while the last scene delves deeply into her despair and heartache. Each time I delivered my final monologue, I would nearly break into tears. I stopped myself from doing so, however, because there wasn’t enough time to convincingly recover from tears in the narrative.

Elizabeth Hansen told me that she was pleased with my interpretation of the new scenes, describing the final effect as “lovely”.   My husband was even surprised by the depth of emotion that came out. He told audience members at a Q&A session, “I always knew Mimi was a good actress, but I’ve never seen her perform quite like this before.   It was very moving.”

Prior to these drastic changes in the script, my commentary on Enchanted April received honorable recognition in the musical’s official trailer.

More on: Fine Arts, Marketing, Musical Theater
About the Author:

Mimi West is a consummate entrepreneur, brand and marketing expert. This retired opera singer and Founder of My Dream Teacher is now pursuing her MBA at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Administration. You can follower her on Twitter: @MimiGuynnWest.
Publshed: April 18, 2013  | 
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