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“We’ve got some pretty special people here at CTC, but Traci’s always making suggestions, trying things,” said Brosius, who is directing the production in a holiday slot that has traditionally been the theater’s biggest box-office earner. “She’s fearless. This Cinderella is going to be very special because of her.”
Marion McClinton, who directed Allen in three plays, including “Stick Fly” at Park Square Theatre, had similar sentiments. “She makes her characters so human, you want to reach out and give them whatever they need. In a town that’s full of national talent, she stands out.”
Peaks and valleys
Allen also has known some valleys. After graduating from Howard, she was hired in a yearlong apprenticeship at CTC, an experience she describes as “a fifth year of school.”
“I learned so much.” But then that came to an end, and she moved to Chicago, where her then-boyfriend Shannon was living. She had no work and few prospects. When she went in for auditions in the Windy City, she had to steel herself for rejections that cut to the core.
“I would walk into an audition and say, ‘I am Traci Allen’ and the person would say, ‘Who, really, are you?’ ” she recalled. “The acting community in the Twin Cities is really open and special. I was nothing in Chicago at first.”
She worked odd jobs and kept auditioning. Allen eventually landed a role in the tour of the musical “The Color Purple.”
“I got to use my acting, singing and dancing in one show,” she said.
Allen will use those skills again in “Cinderella,” which is being revived in the wacky, over-the-top pantomime style of musical theater. She acts opposite Nathan Barlow, who plays the prince. Barlow, a graduate of the Guthrie Theater/University of Minnesota’s BFA training program, grew up at the theater.
Allen also gets to perform with fellow company members. Drake plays the narrator while Ness, Dean Holt and Reed Sigmund play Cinderella’s tacky stepfamily.
At the Children’s Theatre, now her artistic home, Allen has already done impressive work. She rocked out in Will Power’s “Five Fingers of Funk.” She played a teenager in “Bud, Not Buddy,” which was directed by McClinton. And she posed as a tomboy-ish hipster in “Fashion 47,” staged by Diane Paulus in 2007, years before she won the Tony for “Pippin’.”
“Cinderella” marks a new chapter, one that she describes as being like a dream.
“I do believe I was born to do this,” said Allen. “But I always check to make sure.”
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390