Jacob Interviews….Singer/Actress Cara Michelle Fish

Cara Michelle Fish singing

Overland Park native Cara Michelle Fish has had multiple experience in the performing arts world which range from community theatre to touring with the 2006-08 international company of “CATS.” (Photo property of Cara Michelle Fish)

By: Jacob Elyachar

Overland Park native Cara Michelle Fish recently returned home to perform at the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City’s donor thank you event.     Ms. Fish has been in multiple productions ranging from local community theatre shows to touring with the international tour of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS.    I had the chance to sit down and talk with Cara about her favorite theater roles, her experience with the international touring company of CATS and her advice for aspiring Broadway performers.

Jacob Elyachar: When did you first get started in performing?

Cara Michelle Fish:  My family actually jokes that I came out of the womb singing.  (Laughs) Music has always been a part of my life.   The very first show that I actually did was a production of Cinderella at Shawnee Mission Theatre in the Park and I was one of the little dancing people and I had this bright green costume and it was hysterical because all the lights in the theatre would go out and I would be glowing.   I fell in love with the people and this experience.   You could go on this journey and escape from your day.    I just loved the way it made me feel.

JE: What were some of your favorite roles that you played growing up in theatre and why?

CMF: There’s a couple and for various reasons too.  A lot of it was the time and the various places I was in my life.  There were some roles that I was able to emotionally connect to.   I was in a musical called The Baker’s Wife and the role was Genevieve and it was this woman who was struggling with who she is as a person.   It was right when I was going into college and it was incredible and I loved that show.    I got to sing this gorgeous song called “Meadowlark” and to this day, it remains one of my favorites.

That same summer, I played Ado Annie Carnes from Oklahoma and I loved the standards and standard musical theatre.   I love those roles like the crazy sidekick, who gets to go on stage and have a great time and make everybody laugh.   I have also done a couple of operas in college.   I have never in my life have done an opera until I went to Wichita State University.   It was the most rewarding experience and I played Despina in Cosi fan tutte.  Learning this score was insane and to think that this role has been performed for hundreds and hundreds of years and I could make it my own: it was such a magical experience.

JE: What are the main differences between high school theatre and university theatre?

CMF: I had such a unique experience in university theatre.  I went to a school that kind of allowed us to dabble in both musical theatre and opera.  It was really wonderful to go back and forth to see your strengths and I was able to leave college with an awesome resume filled with these great roles that I never in my life imagined doing.    But however the main difference between university and high school is the people that you are with.    A lot of people who do high school theatre are there to do just to see what it is like where as college is where people want to pursue or considering to pursue this as a career.

JE: Let’s talk about your time with CATS.  What attracted you to audition for the company?

CMF:  Actually, it’s a weird story.  I did not audition for the show.  I went to the UPDAs (Unified Professional Theatre Auditions) and it was a huge audition in Memphis, Tennessee and drove up with a couple of friends to Memphis.   You have 90-seconds to show them everything that you can do including singing and reading the monologue.   I actually got a callback for CATS.   

Then, you go into this room and you sing for the people again and the casting director said to me: “We would like you to look at this role, can you please be in New York next week?  We want you to come to the final callback.”  This was pure luck and this does not happen.  I am so grateful for that experience and it was luck and being in the right place and at the right time.  The majority of people that I met on that show are still my core group of friends.   You are with the same people 24/7 in this fantasy world and they become your family.

JE: What was it like touring with the company?

CMF: It was amazing and it had its ups and downs just like any job and it had its perks.  Getting paid to do something that you love in a way, I felt guilty at times.  I am really going horseback riding in Brazil and going through the rainforest.  It was unbelievable.   I have some hysterical stories and some not-so-great stories but I learned a lot about myself and it was a great time in my life to explore and experience a lot of different things.   I really think that experience was pinnacle to where I am right now.

JE: You transferred from CATS to cabaret. What caused that change?

CMF: I did CATS for two years (2006 to 2008).  After that, I moved to Minnesota for a few years and it was wonderful.  But there was something inside of me said that I needed to be in New York and I picked up and moved literally in a month.    I realized when I was in New York that it is very easy to get lost there even at the top.   I have a lot of friends that are doing very well for themselves and I am so, so proud of them.    However, I realized that I needed stability in my life and performing is not something that provides that like when you are pursing it as a full-time career.

I am now doing it because I love it and to perform in cabarets.  I have a couple of friends who are rising writers (lyricists).    They have me record stuff all the time and kind of premiere their music.  It is so wonderful to create and I love writing my own story in a way.

JE: What is your advice to people who aspire to become actors in plays and Broadway musicals?

CMF: I was told this all the time in college: “If there is something else that you can see yourself doing…do that instead.” (Laughs)  For years, I was like: “No! I am not going to do that.  I am not going to be that person.” But I totally understand what they are saying.  Life is all about the journey and I really do believe that it is good to have an end goal in sight but that is not the end all be all.    Once you get to the top, then what happens? So just really enjoy the journey, get the training and do as many shows as possible.   Enjoy everyone you meet along the way.

I really think that even though I am not pursuing this full-time anymore like I used to,  I feel that performing has made me the person I am today.

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