The Light in the Piazza - London

Dove Cameron and Renée Fleming star in Daniel Evans' production.

London's The Light in the Piazza Star Dove Cameron on Her Friendship with Ariana Grande and Dream of Playing Wicked's Glinda

London's The Light in the Piazza Star Dove Cameron on Her Friendship with Ariana Grande and Dream of Playing Wicked's Glinda
"The Light in the Piazza" stars Dove Cameron and Renée Fleming
(Photo: Gavin Bond)

About the Show

Onetime Disney Channel teen queen Dove Cameron has been spreading her theatrical wings of late. Last December the 23-year-old performer opened off-Broadway in the New Group production of the musical Clueless, and she is currently readying her British stage debut, opposite opera superstar and 2018 Tony nominee Renée Fleming, in The Light in the Piazza. The Adam Guettel musical will run June 14-July 5 at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank and represents a dream come true for the winning, immediately engaging Cameron, as she explained one recent lunchtime to in an expansive interview prior to the start of London rehearsals.

What brought you to London and to this musical, in particular?
I’ve put it out into the world so many times that I love this show and we just found one another. The Light in the Piazza has been my favorite musical since I was in single digits. I come from this big musical family. We were living in Washington State and would go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; during the drive down, we would get whatever was the new current musical and listen to it the whole way, and this one wasbig and new at the time and my whole family fell in love with it, truly!

Were you actively pursuing it?
I’d been worshipping at the feet of [Piazza] for ages and I think I posted a video of me on Instagram singing it and then something happened with my agent and it just all worked out. Back in the day, my entire family loved the show so much that my dad actually built a piazza in the back of our house!

How do you feel about inheriting Kelli O’Hara’s 2005 Broadway role as Clara, daughter to the wistful, secretive Margaret [Victoria Clark’s Tony-winning Broadway assignment, here taken by Renée Fleming]?
The thing I love about Clara is that she’s such a specific character, and I always think there’s relatability in the specific—that the specific is the general. The brilliant thing Adam [Guettel, the show’s Tony-winning composer] has done is that he has found this phraseology whereby everyone else in the show is a bit jaded and Clara is the one with the most issues but also the least jaded.

How do you feel about describing her on social media as your first properly adult part, when Clara in some ways is a child-woman because of what has happened to her?
When I said that I was kind of cheating. Clara got kicked in the head by a pony when she was 10 and so isn’t really an adult, and that’s obviously the rub of the whole show— that’s the meat of Clara. In a way she hasn’t learned that thing that adults have about how to process, which is the reason we love children so much: they’re honest and truthful and see life as it is.

What do you make of your Piazza co-stars who range from a Grammy-winning opera legend in Fleming to one of Britain’s finest classical actors in Alex Jennings and a fast-rising musical theater performer in Rob Houchen?
I think it’s funny because each of us is an interesting choice. By that I mean that if all of the cast were obvious and just one of us was a red herring that would be one thing, but this is like four red herrings who you wouldn’t think to put in the same show. I hope it might create something special.

Have you sought out advice from Kelli O’Hara directly?
I haven’t because I’m terrified, but I think she knows it’s happening because I posted a picture of myself on a horse the other day and Stephanie Styles [O’Hara’s current Broadway co-star in Kiss Me, Kate] said, “Be careful, Clara, with the ponies,” and Kelli liked it. I was, like, she knows who I am, and that was all I needed [laughs]!

How does Guettel’s acclaimed score sit on your voice?
I’m naturally a coloratura, so with rest and proper placement this is where I belong [vocally], if that makes any sense. It took me ages to train my voice to be able to do pop and “runs” because I was so bright, but this score is just so lovely. It feels like butter— melted butter.

Dove Cameron (Photo: Martina Tolot)

By “coloratura,” aren’t you also honoring your friend and colleague Kristin Chenoweth, who has played your screen mom twice before—first in Descendants and then in Hairspray Live!?
Kristin’s my Broadway mama—one of two. We met when I was 17 and, I mean, she sings the shit out of everything. It’s ridiculous! I watch her body for technique all the time, and I’m thinking, “How are her ribs? What is her facial position?” I would say she’s probably the number one most talented person I’ve ever met. She and I and Kenny Ortega wanted to adapt [1981 Faye Dunaway film] Mommie Dearest, and we looked into the rights but they don’t want to give them to us. Oh my God, we want to do it so badly!

Who’s your other Broadway mama?
Cheyenne Jackson! I text him and go, “What do I do about this?”

Speaking of Broadway, have you congratulated your onetime Hairspray Live! castmate Ephraim Sykes, on his recent Tony nod for Ain’t Too Proud?
I’m the worst! I’m like this weird, selective introvert with maybe 10 contacts in my phone and other than that I just think nice things about people and think they feel it [laughs]. I say this with complete honesty: Ephraim is among the top five most talented people I’ve ever met in my life. He’s just always [she snaps her fingers]—what a machine!

What about another Hairspray Live! colleague, Ariana Grande [who played Penny Pingleton to Cameron’s Amber Von Tussle]?
I love Ari. She’s such a singular person and not at all what you would think, at least in my experience. She and I got to be good girlfriends and that’s always a different perspective than somebody’s public image. She’s really, really funny—so smart and so intelligent—and such a deserving person of what she has.

Between Hairspray, albeit filmed for TV, and then Clueless and now Piazza onstage, are you making a conscious decision to embrace the theater?
Hairspray Live! was like dipping a toe into theater but via the TV world and then I played Sophie in Mamma Mia! in L.A. and that was fun but a very short commitment. Clueless happened super last minute and was one of those things where it was now or never, and I think I signed on for Piazza before that or maybe right at the same time. But I have to say that each experience has been so individually magical. There are very few musicals that I don’t love.

Do you have a musical that, for you, would be the Broadway dream?
It may sound weird but my number one show of all time is Jekyll and Hyde. I fell in love with that show because it’s so dark and I love Linda Eder, but I don’t know when it would come back. I also love Heathers but I know that had a huge run here [in London]. My ex-boyfriend [Ryan McCartan] was in the off-Broadway run, so I also know it from that. I’d love to play Veronica and also Heather Chandler: I’d love to play somebody truly predatory who’s not just petulant but truly scary.

Do any of the Disney stage musicals interest you?
I would do a Disney. I think Aladdin is the only one I’ve seen; I haven’t yet got to Frozen.

One has to ask, and not just because of your friendship with Kristin Chenoweth, whether you have put yourself in the ring to play Glinda in the forthcoming film of Wicked?
I mean, you know it would be my dream and I am definitely in touch with the right people. Clara is my dream ingénue, but obviously I would love to play Glinda.

The stage Glinda has to begin the show descending from the ceiling in a suspended bubble: could you manage that?
Absolutely, I love heights. I feel safe up high: nothing can get me.