We've all heard tales of struggling actors trying to make it in the tough world of Broadway or Hollywood.
But it's not every day that you hear about an actor who started their career with a few international tours and parts in some of the most famous musicals of all time.
Yet that's what recent Penn State University Park grad Caroline Bowman, 22, did. Bowman, a native of Glenwood, Md., graduated in May with a degree in musical theater and went straight out on tour with Phoenix Entertainment - a company that puts together both national and international tours of the biggest hits on Broadway. It was actually her second tour with Phoenix; in late 2009 and early 2010, she played Carmen Diaz in a production of "Fame" that toured mainland China.
The cast of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” performs the number “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” The musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park.
Starting out her post-collegiate career, Bowman played Rizzo in a production of "Grease" that traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, in May. Next, she'll take on the role of The Lady of the Lake in a national touring production of "Monty Python's Spamalot" that will visit Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium for shows at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I'm real excited to be able to come back (to Penn State)," Bowman said in a phone interview before the tour begins today in Waterbury, Conn. "I just spent four years there training, working toward doing exactly what I'm doing. I'm excited for the faculty and my fellow underclassmen to see (the show)."
Acting is in Bowman's blood, and she knew early on that it was passion.
If you go
What: "Monty Python's Spamalot"
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State University Park campus
Tickets: $51 and $57 for adults, $46 and $52 for those ages 18 and younger and $36 and $42 for University Park students.
"My mom is an actress, so I grew up doing theater with her and community theater," she said. "It's always been a part of my life, and I always knew I wanted to pursue theater."
And there aren't many roles in Broadway history that allow a performer to soar quite like The Lady of the Lake. Only vaguely identifiable as the mythical figure who gave Excalibur to King Arthur, the Lady of "Spamalot" is a big-voiced belter who is the only female lead in the musical and has several show-stopping solos.
Actress Sara Ramirez (now known for her role as Dr. Callie Torres on "Grey's Anatomy") originated the role on Broadway in 2005, taking home a Tony Award for best featured actress in a musical.
But the big role - as well as its illustrious past - just makes Bowman more excited to begin.
"I'm in love with The Lady," she said. "It's very invigorating. This part ... it's a dream. "I get to come out and have a spotlight just on me.
"Everybody as a kid, you grow up dreaming of being alone on the stage and singing. It warms my heart."
Though she adores the role now, Bowman was unfamiliar with "Spamalot" before she auditioned in March. She says she did a lot of research online before auditioning.
And what does she think of the musical now?
"I think it's awesome. It's amazing," Bowman said. "It's so well-written. It's all in the script, it's just all laid out there for us. I see why it has done so well. It's funny because it's stuff that everyone thinks is funny. It's obvious comedy, but it's so funny."
Though she was just back in State College in July to appear in the Pennsylvania Centre Stage production "Smokey Joe's Cafe," Bowman says she can't wait to get back to Penn State.
"I really miss it already and I haven't been gone too long," she said with a laugh. "Just being back is going to feel good. I'll be happy to show my castmates my campus.
"It's like coming back to home. "
The Center for Performing Arts at Penn State may seem like a home away from home for Broadway this year, as the organization has lined up a group of popular shows. In addition ot "Spamalot," the 2010-11 season will include "A Chorus Line," "The Color Purple," "Spring Awakening" and "The Fiddler on the Roof."
"We're always looking at a combination of new Broadway shows and the classics," said Laura Sullivan, director of marketing at Eisenhower Auditorium. "('Spamalot') came along and we thought this would sort of satisfy both groups."
So far, the strategy seems to have worked.
"The response has been great," Sullivan said. "Our students have responded great for this performance. There are two shows and they're both selling really well."
The appeal of the national touring productions that Eisenhower books is steady, she said.
"People seem to be really excited about (the season)," Sullivan said. "Broadway continues to be one of the most popular productions we present."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.