The Lyric Opera's New Star Talks Makeup, Marriage, & More

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TWOOklahoma_framegrab_7We’ve been geeking out over musical theater for as long as we can remember. The lyrical songs, the beautiful costumes, and the dreamy plotlines have had us hooked on Rodgers and Hammerstein since we were knee-high. So, naturally, we couldn’t be more psyched about the Lyric Opera’s spectacular production of Oklahoma!, set to play at the Civic Opera House from May 4 to 19.

In anticipation of the major theater event, we chatted with Ashley Brown, who will play the role of Laurey. With a set of pipes like you wouldn’t believe, Brown originated the role of Mary Poppins on Broadway and played Magnolia in the Lyric’s 2012 production of Show Boat. Turns out, she’s also crazy about NARS cosmetics, loves getting dressed up in wedding gowns, and knows just where to grab a bite in Chicago. Brown is our type of gal, onstage and off.

Oklahoma! is an old favorite for many musical-theater lovers — were you also an early fan?
“Absolutely! I played the role of Laurey in high school. So, revisiting it has been a blast, now that I have a little more experience under my belt. These songs bring back the early days when I first started taking voice lessons.”

Tell us about your character, Laurey. What do you love best about playing her?
“I love how passionate she is. She's direct yet vulnerable. She's a lovely, complicated person to play. She's a lady but she can hang in there with the boys.”

What’s the most challenging aspect of this role?
“I guess the most challenging part is remembering her shyness. Women were so shy at that time. [I have to] remember that someone touching your hand was a huge deal. It wasn’t something that happened all of the time.”

What are your personal favorite songs from Oklahoma!?
“It’s hard to choose, as all of the songs are so well-written and fun to sing and explore. If I had to choose, it would be ‘Out Of My Dreams.’ I'm in love with everything about that scene and song.”

Switching gears a bit, we’d like to chat about fashion and beauty (two of our favorite topics at Refinery29!). Since you wear a lot of makeup for work, you must have your cleansing process down pat. What are some of your skin-care tips?
“Wash your face at night, exfoliate, and wear sunscreen! I have my normal moisturizer, then I have a second moisturizer that has sunscreen in it. I'm obsessed with keeping my skin hydrated. That is key!”

When you’re doing your own, everyday makeup, which brands and products do you love?
“I love NARS, Chanel, and MAC cosmetics!”

As for fashion, are there any Chicago shops you love to swing by when you’re in town?
“Oh I don't even know where to begin with the shopping in this city! I love it all!”

What do you think of your onstage wardrobe for Oklahoma!?
“My costumes are beautiful! Especially my wedding dress. It makes me laugh because I get married about three times a year. Every musical I do, there seems to be a wedding! I love it.”

We’d love to hear about “your” Chicago. Have you fallen in love with any local restaurants?
“There are so many amazing restaurants in this city. I love the Tortoise Club. It's a gorgeous new restaurant. Everyone should try it!”

Have you had the chance to check out any other Chicago theater?
“Not this time. But I'm really looking forward to seeing Big Fish.”

And, if you had a whole day off, what would be your ideal Chicago day?
“I love to be outside! I love taking my dog, Eddie, to Navy Pier and to the beach. I'm lucky enough that I spend more than half of my life in dark theaters, so getting outdoors is like a vacation.”

Oklahoma! will play at Lyric Opera of Chicago May 4 to 19. Tickets, $32 to $153, available online or by calling 312-332-2244.

Lyric Opera of Chicago, Civic Opera House, 20 North Wacker Drive (at West Madison Street); 312-332-2244.

Photo: Courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago