Cutler Returns to Louisville with Billy Elliot

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

While many of us have dreamed of starring in a Broadway show, for most of us, it has only been a dream and we have moved on to other things.
For 11-year-old Samantha Cutler, that dream is reality. The Louisville-born actress is traveling with the touring Broadway company of Billy Elliot, portraying the female lead role of Debbie. In fact, you can catch her in the show at Whitney Hall this week as the company performs in Louisville through July 1. Then it’s off to Los Angeles.

Poised and confident, Cutler handled the interview with Community like a pro, although her mother, Dr. Kim Goldman, was there to help with details from time to time.

Cutler has always wanted to perform. She started begging for dance lessons at age 2. Since no one offers lessons for a child so young, her mother was her first teacher. She started her formal lessons at age 4, “after seeing a show at CenterStage.”

Dancing soon led to singing when she was asked to sing a solo during a dance competition. She “took a couple of voice lessons,” then enrolled in acting camp at the Jewish Community Center.

“I did a couple of mini-shows,” Cutler said, “then I kept doing it.” From CenterStage Academy and Dancensation, she graduated to CenterStage, Derby Dinner Playhouse and Music Theater Louisville, then on to national tours.

She danced the snowflake in The Nutcracker with the Moscow Ballet, was part of the children’s ensemble in the PNC Bank Broadway Series production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and was a munchkin in the national tour of Oz the Musical.

For Billy Elliot, she answered an open call in New York for the role and got called back for four auditions before she was hired for the show. “I started out as small swing,” she explained. A swing is a cast member who serves as understudy for multiple parts. “I had three girls I covered,” she continued. “I covered whenever they were sick or on vacation. I was the cover for Debbie, the principal role,” and this year, she landed that role, the dance teacher’s daughter.

In fact, Cutler has been traveling with shows since she was 9. When asked how she can manage to work and keep up with her studies and be away from her family, she explained, “They have tutors on the show and I have a home schooling program that my mom runs. I also have a guardian who travels with me.”

Goldman has now decided that she’d like to spend more time traveling with her daughter, so she has closed her private practice and plans to work just one or two days a month so she can spend the rest of the time traveling with Cutler.

There are a lot of kids in the show, Cutler said, and “There is a lot of singing and dancing and fun.” She enjoys the role, and it demands that she be sharp at all times and ready for quick changes. The cast does eight shows a week plus at least one rehearsal each week.

Facebook and Skype make it easy for Cutler to keep in touch with family while she’s on the road. In addition to her mother, who has seen her perform in almost every venue, her father and grandparents sometimes come to see the shows. “It’s hard being away from friends,” she says, “but I’ve gotten used to it.”

Because children’s roles are age specific and often have height requirements, they usually get six-month contracts. Cutler is just fine with that. She wants to make a career of acting, so she just keeps auditioning and looking for the next role.

Her advice to others: “Keep trying, keep auditioning and don’t give up even if you don’t get a lot. … Follow your dreams and don’t give up and, come see the show.”

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