Ten Questions: Julia Rose Udine
From Voorhees to a national tour
By Terri Akman

All Julia Rose Udine ever wanted to do was act, sing and dance. The talented performer from Voorhees is now living her dream, playing the lead role of Christine Daaé in the North American tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.” While Udine, 20, enjoys performing throughout the country, she’s looking forward to opening this month to an audience packed with friends and family at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

This version of “The Phantom of the Opera” is different than the Broadway show. How is that being received?
It’s the same story we all love, just very different than the Broadway show. It approaches the characters in a different way with completely new staging and new choreography. There have been a lot of surprises. We’ve gotten a great response from the audiences including sold-out shows and standing ovations. The technology we have now is way more advanced than it was years ago, so audiences are seeing a lot of new technological advances in the show. There are pyrotechnics, and the things the chandelier does are really great.

How was the tour’s opening night?
We opened the tour on November 27 in Providence, R.I. It was a thrill, because it was only the second time we had ever run the show on stage. We were all really nervous but when you’re on stage, everything just seems to come together, no matter what kind of shape the show is in. Everyone is on the same page. You get this energy from the audience that you haven’t had throughout the rehearsals, which totally helps the show.

Julia_Udine_hiresDo you have any on-stage tricks to keep you calm?
I pretend no one is watching me. That helps me to get into the mind of the character. When I look out there, I don’t see faces; it’s totally black with the lights in our eyes. We can’t see the audience anyway, so it’s very helpful to think no one is watching me. I’m just out there telling a story, and that’s what the rest of the cast is doing, too. You really have to lock onto the actors you’re with. I’ve definitely gotten less nervous. When you’re out there, you stop thinking about everything and are just in character.

You do a lot of singing in the show. How do you protect your voice?
I definitely have to live a bit of a different lifestyle. I’m only 20, so I can’t drink alcohol, but I also can’t go out and party every night. I have to lead a healthy lifestyle – eat good meals, protect my body and drink a lot of tea and honey to soothe my voice.

While doing the show in Minneapolis, you got sick and your understudy filled in. Did that worry you?
I had bronchitis and a sinus infection, and was out for four days. I never worry about the understudy, because her job is to step in when you can’t perform. I was excited that my understudy got to go on for her first time. If I were in her place, I would have wanted to do that, too. It was a very good week for her. What’s scary for me is I don’t want to miss shows, but what if next week, I can’t sing? That’s nerve-wracking.

Can you share a funny or interesting story about something that happened during a show?
We were in Rhode Island, and it was our second night performing. There are a lot of pyrotechnics in the show, and some smoke had risen up to the balcony and there was a lingering smell of smoke. One audience member thought the theater had caught fire, so people started running out of the theater while we were singing up on stage. We didn’t know what was happening or what we should do. Someone turned up the house lights, and we stopped singing. The show resumed in 10 minutes when they informed the audience there was no fire, and they were smelling smoke from the show.

Do you feel a lot of pressure being in a national tour when you’re only 20?
I never thought of it that way until people started saying that to me. I did feel some pressure at first, but I’m OK now. I’m where I am for a reason. I trust the people who put me in this position wouldn’t put me here if they didn’t think I could do it. You have to have a sense of confidence about your own talent and what you can do.

Is Christine Daaé a role you’ve always wanted?
Yes. Christine is a dancer, a ballerina and a singer. For me, that brings all of my training together. I’ve been dancing since I was a really young girl, and this is a part every young girl wants to play. I used to sing the songs from the show in my voice lessons when I was 12 years old, but this is the first time I’ve played the role.

How did you get from Voorhees to the national tour?
I graduated Eastern High School in 2011 and went to Penn State for one semester. I didn’t feel like it was for me. I left and went to New York and was in Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester while also taking acting and voice lessons at the same time. Through my dance studio, we had mock auditions where managers and casting agents would come. That’s how I got my agent. I tried out for a show called “Jack’s Back.” It was an off-off-Broadway show at my acting studio, and I got the part. I did a “Law and Order: SVU” episode and “All My Children,” and then I got this.

What advice do you have for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t stop training – ever. You should never get comfortable and think you’re good enough. There is always someone better than you out there. It’s such a large business, and so many people can do what you can do and more. It sounds negative, but it should keep you motivated. Stay humble and be nice to the people you’re working with. It honestly counts toward your next job.

March 2014
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