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Spotlight on ‘Urinetown’ actor Rachel Salerno


In collaboration with TheatreZone, the FGCU TheatreLab is bringing Urinetown, the Musical to the stage in October. Playing the role of Little Sally is Rachel Salerno.

Salerno is well-suited to the part. Little Sally is a precocious and irreverent street urchin who regularly questions the play’s main character (Officer Lockstock) and the play’s logic. Rachel describes herself as sarcastic and occasionally snarky, traits that were very much in evidence in her portrayal of the character of Bret in Calvin Berger for City Scenes Theatre (the Alliance Youth Theatre).

In Calvin Berger, Salerno played a girl who’s in love with her best friend, but he doesn’t think of her in that way. In fact, he’s interested in someone else (a girl named Rosanna) and Bret has to listen to him go on and on about her ad nauseum. Salerno played the part to perfection. Her exchanges with Simon Lynch (who played Calving Berger) were extremely natural; the on-stage chemistry between the two palpable. She was genuine, authentic and believable as the girl who’s taken for granted.

“I try to put myself in my character’s shoes,” shares Rachel of her process. “It makes the acting more raw. When I’m on stage, I’m not me anymore. I’m able to compartmentalize the character from myself.”

The role of Little Sally requires strong acting, singing ability and comic timing, as well as fair-to-middling dance skills. Rachel actually assesses her singing and dancing ahead of her acting. If that’s the case, Urinetown audiences are in for a treat.

Rachel is a sophomore at FGCU majoring in Theatre.

“FGCU’s theater program is really small, which is kind of nice,” Salerno relates as she sips a soft drink at a local McDonald’s restaurant. “You get a lot of one-on-one time with the professors. There are five of them, and they all work professionally in the field. I really like having small classes because you get more attention.”

She ended up going to Florida Gulf Coast University because she received a Theater Scholarship.

“That solidified by decision to go there, and besides, it’s close to home,” adds Rachel, who is a graduate of North Fort Myers High School.

Besides Calvin Berger, some of favorite past roles include Anita (Regina) in Rock of Ages HSE at North Fort Myers High School, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at NFMHS, Clarice in Servant of Two Masters at FGCU, Rose in Dogfight with City Scenes, Cheerleader in War At Home at NFMHS and Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was also in the world premiere of an experimental play titled Your Florida Fantasy this past April.

On top of her studies and performance schedule, Salerno works as a Disney princess for children’s parties with Wish Upon A Star and has worked for the last three years as the music director at the Cultural Park Theatre Summer Camp. She also just finished music directing The Wizard of Oz at Cultural Park.

“I started out at Cultural Park,” Rachel notes. “I’d always been better at singing, and that’s always been my strongest suit, but I’ve really worked on acting and dancing.”

As far back as she can remember, musical theater has always been her passion and avocation. And she knows that to be successful in that genre, she needs to be strong not only in acting, singing and dancing, but when it comes to memorizing lines, dance routines and lyrics.

“And have the stamina to do them all at the same time,” she laughs softly, casting a sidewise glance at the friend who accompanied her to the interview. “You have to be able to sing while doing a complicated dance routine at the same time. It takes a lot out you physically when you’re moving around the whole time.”

Rachel is blessed with musical memory, so it’s easier for her to memorize lyrics than dialogue. Recognizing that, she frequently puts dialogue to music in order to memorize her lines. “In middle and high school, I would even memorize things like math or history by putting it to music.”

To improve her acting, she took classes both in and outside of school. She also worked on her acting by preparing monologues for auditions. But because of the time constraints imposed by her heavy academic course load over the past three years, she had to give up dance lessons. “However, I’m taking ballet this semester,” she says with enthusiasm. While for now she considers herself more of a mover than pure dancer, she acknowledges that this could change with time and practice.

In addition to acting, Rachel likes teaching and stage management. In the former capacity, she completed a mentorship over the summer with Theatre Professor Greg Longenhagen during which they developed a manual on how to teach classic theater to young children. And as for stage management, she plans to ASM (assistant stage manage) her first show this coming Spring.

“I have good organizational and time management skills,” Rachel confides. “I’m also something of a perfectionist. Plus I like being in charge. I really like the organization part that comes with stage management.”

Although graduation is still a couple of years away, Rachel is already thinking about life after college. Her future may include a stint at Disney or on a cruise line or in a national tour. “I’d really love to indulge my desire to travel,” she admits, her eyes sparkling at the very thought.

While teaching and stage management remain long-term goals, musical theater is currently her top priority. Natalie in Next to Normal would be her dream role. But for now, she’s happy to be Little Sally. It’s a part tailor-made for her unique set of skills.

September 29, 2018.


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