Bailee McQueen is a junior Musical Theatre major at the University of Tampa. Bailee and I met doing a production of Les Miserables while we were in high school. However, there was so much about Bailee that I did not know. In between getting rehearsing and performing in Webb’s City: The Musical this past weekend, I wanted to find out more about Bailee and her future path to Broadway.
When did you begin your theatre journey?
I got started in theatre at a very young age. I was inspired by the movies I’d watch as a child. As soon as I had enough of a vocabulary to carry on a conversation (which was pretty early on, because I’ve always loved to talk), I started mimicking the people on the TV and in the movies. I’d watch movies like Peter Pan over and over again to memorize all the lines. Then, I’d assign my family members roles. I’d rearrange furniture into a makeshift “set,” and I’d give directorial advice. I was really hard on my family about dropping a line or paraphrasing. I’d always play the leading part, of course. As a result around the age of six or seven, my parents enrolled me in some of the after school drama clubs and bought me a bunch of Shakespeare’s plays. I had a lot of fun, but I didn’t realize it was what I wanted to do until I was nine years old. It started when I was eight and my friend brought a copy of the 2004 movie of Phantom of the Opera to my house. I fell in love with it. I begged my parents to buy me my own copy, and I’d watch it over and over. Over the summer, I’d watch t til the credits, then I’d rewind it and start it again. After a year of this madness, my dad bought my family tickets to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. It was in that theater— the Majestic Theater — that I thought to myself, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Why do you do theatre?
That’s a good question. I have a few reasons for doing theatre. The first reason is that it’s an escape from daily life. As an actor, you have to leave your personal life and issues at the door when you enter the theater. You have to shed your own skin and embody someone else’s experience, struggles, and story. You’re not going to be able to do that very well if you’re focused on how much money you have in the bank or relationship problems, etc. When I perform, I get to forget about my issues for a while and focus on someone else’s drama. Also, sometimes daily life is boring! I find myself longing for the excitement I see in the movies or read in books. As an actor, I get the opportunity to be a pirate or see the world or slay a dragon. I get to live that excitement for a couple hours a night. I also appreciate the truth of theatre. Theatre (and art in general) is about conveying a universal truth under imaginary circumstances that will generate an empathetic response with your audience. I want to inspire people. I want people to see themselves onstage and leave the theatre with more than they came in with. Finally, I do theatre because it’s fun!
Do you have a preference over singing or acting?
It’s hard to choose between singing and acting. I guess between the two, I’d have to go with acting, because acting is the foundation of everything. You can sing a song, and it can be beautiful, but if you don’t act, if you don’t put your soul into it, what’s the point? That doesn’t move people. The same statement is true for dancing. Truly incredible dancers put their soul into the story behind their choreography, and that’s what I love to see.
Of the roles you have played, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite role I’ve ever played is Captain Hook. I’ve played a lot of really great characters that have inspired my personal growth, but Captain Hook was the most like me and the most fun. He takes himself very seriously, which is why he’s so serious. He was a huge physical comedy role, and his songs were fantastic. I got to fall down stairs, jump off a plank and into the pit, climb up a ladder one handed (I couldn’t use the hook hand), sword fight, rip my pants, and make a lot of butt jokes. I would love to play Captain Hook again. I think I’ll be sorely disappointed if I go the rest of my life without doing so.
Do you have a dream role(s) you would some day like to play?
My number one dream role is the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. They say it can’t be done, but in Japan, they do productions of Phantom with full female casts. I do recognize that it’s a kind of silly dream, but the character of the Phantom has always resonated with me in an incredible way. I never tire of his story. Overall, I generally empathize with male characters more than female ones. More realistic dream roles include Adelaide in Guys and Dolls (I’ve already played her complete opposite, Sarah); Veronica Sawyer in Heathers; Heather Chandler in Heathers; Susannah in Carlisle Floyd’s opera, Susannah; Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes!; and Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.
What are your goals for after you graduate from the University of Tampa?
After college, I’d like to go to graduate school or get picked up by an agent and work on cruise ships for a while. I have a good work ethic, I love cruising, and it’s a great way to save up some money to put right into the bank. After that, who knows! When you’re in the performing arts industry, you have to be flexible. I do know that I don’t want to do just musicals forever. I want to do musicals, plays, operas, TV, commercials, movies, stand up comedy, anything.
Why do you chose to attend the University of Tampa Theatre program?
I actually never intended to be in UT’s (musical) theatre program for long. I grew up in Tampa Bay, and UT was just that school in my backyard, so I never considered it. I started school in Western New York, and I was miserable. It was too cold, too isolated, and the academics were subpar. I auditioned for UT’s program with the intention of just getting out of Western New York and going somewhere else after I regrouped. However, I fell in love with UT’s program and decided to stay! The academics are very good, my teachers are incredibly dedicated, it’s in a gorgeous area, I can see my family that lives nearby, the music program is wonderful, and I’m not only allowed but encouraged to work with local theatre companies like Saint Pete Opera, American Stage, and Opera while in school! My old school didn’t allow us to engage in outside work, but UT wants me to build my resume and contacts list. I am so proud to be a UT student! My only critique is that I wish there were even more acting classes.
Make sure to see Bailee this fall in the Pirates of Penzance at the University of Tampa’s Falk Theater November 15-18!