Kimbre Lancaster might have grown up riding horses and feeding cows at her grandparents' Basin City ranch but it was always theater that held her heart.
The Kamiakin High graduate recently auditioned and won the starring role of Sophie in the Las Vegas production of Mamma Mia!
"I am so excited," the 28-year-old told the Herald in an email. "I've been living in New York City for the last two years and this is my first role ever in Vegas. The auditions were held nationwide and the cast is being assembled from folks in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and even from Australia."
Lancaster cut her teeth singing, dancing and acting as a child actor with the Academy of Children's Theatre, based in Richland, said her dad, Steve Lancaster, a banker with the Kennewick branch of Washington Trust Bank. Her mother, Tamie Lancaster, lives in Montana.
"I don't know where she got it (talent)," he joked. "She was a cheerleader, in gymnastics and was part of a dance team while in high school. She was always doing something, and very determined, very passionate about what she wanted to do."
He remembered when his daughter played Tiger Lilly in the ACT production of Peter Pan when she was in middle school and injured her knee opening night.
"She got through that performance somehow, though I'll never know how," he said. "But all those years she was involved with the children's theater were so good for her. I can't say enough good things about ACT."
Kimbre also credits ACT for providing awesome mentors for kids. During middle school and high school, she made many friends while a member of ACT, including Janet Krupin and Santino Fontana, both of whom found success on Broadway.
Fontana was nominated for a Tony Award last year for his starring role as the prince in Cinderella and his voiced the role of Prince Hans in the popular Disney movie Frozen.
Kimbre graduated from Kamiakin High in 2004 and earned her college degree in 2008 from the University of Idaho where she also performed for a time with the Idaho Repertory Theatre. From there she moved to Seattle until she received the Rex Rabold Fellowship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2010. She spent two seasons there before taking off for the bright lights of Broadway.
She said she took part in several regional theater productions in New York City and worked a plethora of odd jobs between shows, such as telemarketer, nanny, personal chef, executive assistant, cocktail waitress and counter server. She also was the director of internal operations at an exotic car rental company.
"I've been very lucky to play key roles in productions in the past," she said. "But not quite a role of (Mamma Mia!) size in a production this big. I'm feeling very blessed."
Life has been hectic since she landed the role, with the move to Vegas and preparing for a grueling rehearsal schedule.
"To be honest, what's going through my head in this moment is a lot of logistics," she said. "Finding a new house in Las Vegas, building up my stamina in the gym, and in a few days my head will be in full-on rehearsal mode.
Her father said his daughter's pace is nothing new because she's been honing her craft since childhood. And though he supported his daughter's career choice, he felt concern when she decided to move to New York.
"I'm her daddy, and New York is a big city, so naturally I was worried," he said. "But she's braver than me."
Mamma Mia! opens May 8 at the Tropicana in Las Vegas.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Dorioneal