Grit and Grace

Madalyn McHugh doesn’t just sing country music – she has lent her powerful voice to opera, pop, contemporary Christian, and musical theatre classics. She’s even opened for The Bacon Brothers (Kevin and Michael Bacon) and jazz guitarist Frank Vignola. In FST’s popular Cabaret, Outlaws and AngelsMadalyn has the chance to be front and center, delighting audiences with her performances of “Travelin’ Thru,” and “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”

We sat down with Madalyn to discuss musical storytelling, yodeling, and the cast chemistry.

Due to popular demand, Outlaws & Angels has been extended through April 12 in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret. For tickets and more information, click here.

What is it about outlaw country music that makes it stand out from other genres?

Artists like Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton have the power to reach people on a personal level through their music. They tell authentic stories that allow listeners to feel a connection with them. There seems to be an unspoken understanding among outlaw country music fans that we have all are connected through the power of the music’s stories.

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Nick Lerangis and Madalyn McHugh. Photo by Matthew Holler.

What is the most fun part of this Cabaret for you? What is the most challenging?

The most fun is bringing to life two important qualities of the iconic country music “angels.” These women are gentle, but tough as nails. Incorporating both character traits into each song is a blast! Women like Patsy Cline loved with every ounce of their heart, but couldn’t be broken by anyone. It is an absolute honor to perform the music of such powerful, strong women. I feel a sense of empowerment each night when I’m done.

Incorporating both of these traits has been incredibly fun, but it is equally as challenging. Every night before I step on stage, I ensure that I am vulnerable enough to share my true emotions with the audience, but also that I am steady and energetic enough to share my grit and unshakable strength.

You and the rest of the cast have great chemistry onstage. What are you all like offstage?

We have made cast bonding a priority and spend a lot of time together off stage. We go to the gym, grab meals, sing, dance, laugh, and so many other fun things together.

We build each other up, supporting and encouraging one another as actors and human beings. It has become vital to come together as a group and get to know each member’s personality. We know each other so well that we are really comfortable with each other level on and off stage. I am blessed to be working with such compassionate, hard working people.

You have a heartwarming duet with Nick Lerangis with “If I Were a Carpenter” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. What’s going through your mind while you’re bringing that song to life?

This duet is so special to me. During the rehearsal process for Outlaws and Angels, I thought about the lyrics of this song for weeks. As we kept rehearsing, the song started to speak to me as a woman. The woman in this song is strong, dedicated, compassionate, and unbreakable. She loves her partner with a steadiness that no one can touch.

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Nick Lerangis and Madalyn McHugh. Photo by Matthew Holler.

The man presents several scenarios to the woman and asks, “Would you still love me?” Her answer is always, “Yes.” She never crumbles.

When I am singing “If I were a Carpenter,” I am thinking of the woman I want to be and the strong one I have become. I am thinking about the power of love, strength, and confidence. The woman in the song is tough and gentle at the same time, which are admirable qualities I try to embody every day.

You actually yodel in “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Was that something you already knew how to do, or did you learn how to do it for the Outlaws and Angels

I had never yodeled before this show. I studied Classical Voice in college and spent years discovering how to control my voice. Yodeling technique involves controlling your voice as it moves between registers. When you yodel, you’re quickly moving from your high register (your head voice) to your low register (your chest voice) with one breath. Stamina and strong posture are also incredibly important to get a clean sound and not hurt your voice while performing.

Why should audiences see Outlaws and Angels?

Outlaws and Angels is a unique opportunity to see raw and real emotion brought to life through the iconic rugged country songs that so many know and love. As a cast, we each have a special spirit and color that we bring to the show, which livens the audience and adds news dimensions to these iconic songs.

Due to popular demand, Outlaws & Angels has been extended through April 12 in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret. For tickets and more information, click here.