Olivia Huntley is an actress, vocalist and model working out of Indianapolis, where she studies at the Park Tudor School. Huntley is appearing in the Phoenix Theatre’s production of the acclaimed Broadway musical “Next to Normal” later this month.
In “Next to Normal,” Huntley plays a teenage girl whose family life falls apart as her mother combats hallucinatory bipolar disorder.
The Collegian met with Huntley to discuss her musical theater career and the Phoenix Theatre’s newest production.
The Butler Collegian: What inspired you to become an actress?
Huntley: My middle school started doing musicals when I was in seventh grade. I was so amazed by what such young people could put on.
The director of our musicals at that time was Emily Ristine Holloway, who plays my mom in “Next to Normal.”
We’ve had a really close relationship for seven years.
I began taking voice lessons in sixth grade, but I started out really shy. Then something happened, and I broke out of my shell. Ever since then, I haven’t been afraid to express myself through performing and song.
You play the role of Natalie in “Next to Normal” at the Phoenix Theatre. How did you get the part, and what was the audition process like?
When I saw Emily perform in “Avenue Q” at the Phoenix, I knew right away that I wanted to be on that stage.
Last summer, I saw that the Phoenix Theatre was having auditions for “Next to Normal.” At the auditions, I was the youngest girl there. I left the audition and the callback not having the highest expectations, and when I heard I got the part, I was surprised and overjoyed.
What do you like best about Natalie, and what do you find most challenging about portraying her?
Natalie has a big struggle emotionally. For me, it’s about finding a balance. Nobody can play hate for two hours.
Natalie has two sides to her, and she tends to let her anger take over.
There’s another side too: A little spark of hope. There are moments of hope in the play, but something always happens to disappoint Natalie, and her anger takes over again.
The second act in particular shows her struggle.
She seems to be doing well in life in the first act, but in the second act, she gets involved with substance abuse and hard partying.
Natalie also puts up barriers between herself and those she cares about. For example, she is in love with a boy named Henry, but she doesn’t want him to find out about her bipolar mother.
“Next to Normal” won three Tony awards and the Pulitzer Prize as well. Do you and the rest of the cast feel any pressure performing a show with this legacy?
Definitely. Anybody who puts on this show knows that pressure. We’re putting it on in a smaller space with limited resources, but we know we have those expectations and that there are standards we have to live up to. The cast is phenomenal. It’s a six-person cast, and the sound we produce is amazing. Our cast is highly esteemed in this area, and a couple of our castmates are from New York. We’re going to put on a great show.
“Next to Normal” will play select dates Jan. 30 through Feb. 24 at the Phoenix Theatre, located at 749 N. Park Ave in downtown Indianapolis. Tickets cost $23 for attendees younger than 21, and $33 for attendees older than 21. For more information, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org.