Savvy Blog

Photo Courtesy of Arkansas Repertory Theater

At 14 years old, Julia Nightingale Landfair has a theatrical resume more impressive than some actors twice her age. First appearing at Arkansas Repertory Theatre at a mere 8 years old as young Cosette in “Les Miserables,” Landfair has won not only the hearts of Arkansas audiences, but now a leading role in the world premiere of “Because of Winn Dixie,” the musical.

“Because of Winn Dixie,” a musical theater version of the award-winning children’s book by Kate DiCamillo, follows the story of 10-year-old Opal and her companion, an Irish Wolfhound found at the Winn Dixie supermarket. The world premiere, set to take place at The Rep on Dec. 4-29, brings a Tony Award-winning team to Little Rock.

“It’s just a dream come true,” Landfair says of working with the team. “I’m still taking all of it in. It’s so surreal.”

The production features music by Duncan Sheik, lyrics and book by Nell Benjamin, direction by John Tartaglia and animal direction by Bill Berloni. According to Nicole Capri, director of education and the Summer Musical Theater Intensive at The Rep, having a world premiere with such an accredited team is something they don’t take for granted.

“It’s game-changing for a regional theater to have the opportunity to produce a show that will more than likely hit the Broadway boards,” Capri says. “It’s extremely affirming to our creative and producing staff and our audience that Arkansas Rep does really excellent work.”

It isn’t something Landfair takes for granted either. She attributes this opportunity and her success in theater to Capri, The Rep and the annual Summer Musical Theater Intensive.

“This summer was my fifth year to participate in The Rep’s SMTI program,” she says. “I think that being part of this family is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Nicole Capri has pushed me to my limits at times, but I couldn’t thank her enough. I honestly wouldn’t be anywhere near here if it weren’t for her help and love.”

The SMTI has a history of producing high quality performers, many who have gone on to careers in New York City. Annual auditions in February typically see 400-500 youth competing for 100 spots. When Landfair auditioned, she already knew Capri from her work in “Les Miserables,” which is an encounter Capri can’t forget.

“She came into auditions wearing a red tutu and wheelies sneakers,” Capri says. “She looked like a perfectly decorated cupcake. She and I got on the ground together and worked on the story behind the song ‘Castle on a Cloud.’ The whole room was in tears by the time she was done. She processes like a pro years beyond her age.”

Landfair, Capri and the entire crew at The Rep are looking forward to the premiere of “Because of Winn Dixie” and what it means for the future of the theater and the future of bright young stars like Landfair.

“Since I stepped foot in The Rep, everyone has been so kind and helpful,” Landfair says. “We really are one big family. The people there have watched me grow up and they have influenced my life so much.”

For more information on “Because of Winn Dixie” or to purchase tickets, visit www.TheRep.org or call the box office at (501) 378-0405.

Lisa Lakey is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two in Benton.
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