The musical, as it depicts the life of a young woman who aims to become a country singing star, communicates some of Hannah McEvilly’s career ambitions.
Hannah McEvilly enjoys spending working days in the world of fiction and free time in what has been labeled the world of reality. Attracted to acting out stage portrayals since elementary school, McEvilly also has long been attracted to watching TV programs that peek into actual experiences of others.
In Michigan for the first time, she has entered into the fictional world of country recording hits by appearing in the jukebox musical Fancy, which is being performed Sept. 8- Oct. 3 at the Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) in Rochester.
The musical, as it depicts the life of a young woman who aims to become a country singing star, communicates some of McEvilly’s career ambitions. She is cast in the roles of a backup singer, factory worker and funeral attendee while she fulfills her responsibilities in the ensemble.
“In theater, I get the opportunity to bring someone who exists on paper into [an acted-out] character, demonstrating how each interacts with others in their worlds,” McEvilly, 23, said.
“Watching reality TV, I hopefully get a genuine look into people, the lives they live and how they interact with others in their worlds. Often, I get to see the funny times in their lives.”
Fancy, written by Susan DiLallo and Dan Wackerman, was inspired by Reba McEntire’s hit recording of “Fancy.” The show spotlights other hit songs that include “Mama, He’s Crazy,” “Before He Cheats” and “Take This Job and Shove It.”
“I love the show because of the music that people are going to be really familiar with,” said McEvilly, who joins in the chorus of many songs. “It’s super fun to sing these songs, especially ‘Fancy.’ It’s super cool that the creators expanded on that, and it’s just a fun show — lots of good music and a good time.
“My primary role is Honeyann, a backup singer who doesn’t appear until Act II. Honeyann is kind of goofy. She’s only there for a little bit so there’s freedom to make her what I want her to be in the show. It’s exciting and a great opportunity to portray the other characters as well. They give me different perspectives of the story.”
Fancy is directed by Travis Walter, MBT artistic director. Zachary Ryan is music director and pianist.
“Dan and Susan (show developers) wondered what happened to that girl in the famous song,” Walter said. “They decided to write a show, using music everyone knows, to tell her story. We’re thrilled they’ve chosen MBT as the theater for the world premiere.”
McEvilly, raised in Austin, did not anticipate theater participation until it was recommended early on by a soccer coach, who thought the stage would be more in keeping with her athletic skills and abilities relating to others. Besides attending McCallum High School, a performing arts center, she was active with the ZACH Theatre, a professional company that also offers classes.
Musical theater studies and participation, which brought her into the world of dance, also brought her into Jewish community activities. She entered dance competition in the Maccabi Games and was cast in a young people’s production of Children of Eden at her local Jewish Community Center.
McEvilly’s bachelor’s degree in musical theater performance was realized in 2020 at the University of Oklahoma. Along the way, she accepted summer stock roles in Annie Get Your Gun, Footloose and Spamalot.
“I moved to New York last September, appeared in a talent showcase and signed with my agent,” she said. “That’s how I came to find Meadow Brook and be a part of this production.”
Because of COVID and the stopping of live shows, she continues to keep working remotely for a marketing firm in Texas, which assigned her to developing brand strategies. After sharing 900 square feet of apartment space with three roommates, she is able to move into a space with only one other person when the run of Fancy is completed.
McEvilly is proud to have her working mom, Deborah Gabor, as a role model who encouraged her daughter, an only child, in seeking a stage career.
“My mom taught me to never give up and always honor my commitments,” McEvilly said. “I find my experience in theater has helped [the marketing work] come along because it’s all about storytelling through different mediums.”
Fancy runs Sept. 8-Oct. 3 at the Meadow Brook Theatre on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester. Tickets start at $36. Check website for latest safety measures. (248) 377-3300. mbtheatre.com.