When Adrienne Eller was a student at NYU, she decided to go see "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" during its early days on Broadway. The decision was on a whim, but it was one that would affect this young actress' career.
As she sat and watched the show in late 2013, Eller was mesmerized by the contemporary musical filled with charm of a golden-age musical.
"When I saw it, my character, Phoebe, when she came out on stage she was really funny and youthful and a little clumsy and too earnest and she was singing beautiful soprano songs," Eller says. "I knew that's the part I wanted to play. After I saw it on Broadway I aspired to be on it."
Eller auditioned, earning the role of Phoebe on the show's first national tour that launched in fall 2015, just months after her graduation from NYU. Leading up to the show's Memphis debut at The Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 9, she spoke by phone from Iowa.
What has been the reaction to the show so far?
"It's been absolutely wonderful. The beauty of the tour for me is it's the first national tour for the show. Bringing the show to hundreds of thousands of people who have never seen it. Every night it's fresh. Going on stage and making them laugh, seeing the reaction is fun."
You've been traveling since September. How is it being on the road?
"It's different, for sure. It's a new experience for me but a ton of fun because our schedule is light. We have to be at the theater every night around 6:30 or 7 except weekends. So we get the whole day to explore a city. That's an awesome opportunity to travel and be a tourist."
How do you relate to Phoebe?
I'm dorkily in love with her. The characters are really complex and well written. She's young, naive and innocent. She is classical but at the same time quirky. She's very bookish. She's so naive. When she meets (love interest) Monty she steps on her words and says things that are insulting that she doesn't mean to say. For her time she thinks outside the box and wishes the world is different. She's fun to play. She's classically feminine and youthful but she's very interesting and fun. You root for her.
... In a lot of ways she is like me."
What about the relationship with Monty?
"When they first make eye contact they both say, 'Oh!' They find each other physically attractive. Monty, his story is he has lost both his parents, he's down on his luck, doesn't have money. He's down on his luck and Phoebe -- who is upper class, reads books and sonnets, is into Charles Dickens -- when she meets Monty and he's a sympathetic orphan character, she feels bad for him. It's sort of like Oliver Twist. He falls in love with her because she's unlike other women of the time period. She's outspoken and longs to say what she feels and wants.
She's not like a cookie-cutter porcelain doll."
How did you get into the character?
"When I started working on the character I did research on the expectations of women in turn of the century England. Something I like to do before the show is hold a book of sonnets and start reading one so I can get into what (my character) has been doing before I come on stage."
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” opens in Memphis Tuesday, Feb. 9. Performances are Feb. 9-11 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 14, at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 to $125 and can be purchased by calling 901-525-3000 or visiting the box office at 203 S. Main St. in Downtown Memphis.
Read here for more of Eller's story.