Photo by Bjoern Kommerell
By Zoe Friedland
Ruby Lewis has recently made Las Vegas her home following a year-long run as the star of Cirque du Soleil’s premier Broadway show, Paramour. Most recently, she performed nightly at the Palazzo as “Daisy” in the acclaimed production of BAZ: A Musical Mashup. Prior to Broadway, Ruby spent a number of years performing in Los Angeles and on national Broadway tours. Additionally, she had a starring role in the feature film Another Perfect Stranger as well as a number of TV credits. You can see her now portraying Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn! The New Musical at Paris Las Vegas.
How did a girl from Kentucky find her way to Broadway?
When I was younger, I felt like Broadway, and New York City in general, was kind of like Oz, a make believe place. Originally I thought I would pursue broadcasting, but thanks to some mentors at Western Kentucky, I joined the theatre program. It just so happened that in my senior year I went to a big, cattle-call audition for the national tour of Gyspy, and I got a callback in New York City. My mom joined me on my 21st birthday when I had my final callback, and I ended up booking the tour. Right out of college I moved to New York for just a few months, just to get my feet wet before I went on tour and completely fell in love with it. My career progressed step by step, with every job. I kept touring, I kept going back to New York between tours, and eventually Broadway came calling.
Is there anyone in the industry who particularly inspires you?
I’ve been greatly inspired by movie musicals my whole life; I’ve watched a lot of films with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers. I love Judy Garland. I love Marilyn Monroe. I used to watch a lot of those films and I would dream of going back in time and being part of that era. It’s funny because now a lot of my roles are Golden Age of Hollywood roles, because that’s what I grew up watching and idolizing.
Additionally, my mom sang opera; she was a member of the Kentucky Opera for years. She did a lot of stuff locally in Kentucky and started directing a lot of musicals and other projects. I think because of her experience she was not a stage mom in any way. She never pressured me, but she did make sure I had every opportunity. She came with me to New York for the big audition when I was 21. She’s been my strength and inspiration. I know that she gets a lot of joy out of the fact that I’m pursuing my dreams.
How do you feel about Las Vegas as compared to Los Angeles and New York?
Vegas definitely stands out as a much more supportive scene. I feel that from Cirque Du Soleil artists to local singers and performers, everyone really supports each other. They make sure we’re all taken care of and employed, and it makes me feel a lot stronger as a performer. In New York and Los Angeles, I felt like I was begging for work, whereas here there exists more freedom for performers to write their own ticket. It just changes everything. I’m just really happy to be here.
Have you felt the impact of the “me too” movement in your experience of the entertainment industry?
I had my own frustrations with harassment on set in theater. For me, it just became part of the gig. It was never so serious that I felt like I needed to say anything. Now I feel like there is some major power and energy behind the movement. In the Vegas community, there are a lot of really strong females that I’ve worked with. I’m hoping that the women can start to call the shots. I don’t think it’s too far off; I’m sensing a major shift. I’ve got several girlfriends here in Vegas that are starting to produce and direct. This feels like our time.
Is there any advice you have for youngsters brave enough to pursue careers in entertainment?
It is important to continue to educate yourself and experience new things in order to discover what makes you stand out and what makes you unique. The field is saturated with kids graduating from college and moving to New York every year, and it's not going to let up anytime soon. I think the only way to start to work consistently is to show people the one thing you do really well and start to run with that. For a while, I felt like I was throwing spaghetti against the wall, saying, “I can do this! I can do that! I can be this for you.” When I finally just stood and wailed, I became known as a small wailer. That’s when I started booking stuff, because people were looking for what I, specifically, offered. So if it’s dance, if it’s physical comedy, if it’s stage combat, you just have to figure out what makes you unique.