Growing up in Howard County, Caroline Bowman often fantasized about what it would be like to star in a Broadway musical.
On an October afternoon in Manhattan in 2011, she came one step closer to finding out.
"My cellphone rang and it was the casting director of 'Wicked,' " recalls the 2006 Glenelg High School graduate. "He said, 'Caroline, I'd like to offer you your Broadway debut.' '"
To make the moment that much sweeter, Bowman's mother, Connie, was by was by her side when it happened.
"I had just moved to New York City three weeks before and my mom was visiting," Bowman says. "She was standing right next to me when I got the news. ... I mean, how special is that? Nothing will ever top that."
Perhaps not, but landing the starring role in the hit musical, "Evita," probably ranks a close second.
On Sunday, Caroline Bowman will star as Eva Peron when the Tony Award nominated Best Revival of a Musical kicks off its 25-city national tour in Providence, R.I. The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice production had a successful revival on Broadway in 2012 and was nominated for three Tony Awards. The bio-operetta chronicles the life of Argentina's charismatic former first lady and her rise from poverty to power. The show enjoys a spot in the pop culture lexicon thanks in part to its iconic number "Don't Cry for me Argentina."
What teenage girl with musical theater aspirations hasn't sung that song into a hairbrush in front of her bedroom mirror?
"I certainly did," says Bowman, 25, with a laugh during a recent phone conversation from her home in New York City. "I just recently sang it in rehearsal for the first time from the balcony," she says of the pivotal scene in "Evita" when Peron addresses an adoring crowd with a melody of regret and defiance.
"When I finished singing, I just started crying," the actress admits. "It wasn't until that moment that I fully realized the power of that song. I just felt it in my whole body.I don't think I'll ever forget it."
Bowman's Broadway career may have begun with a phone call but her knack for performing was apparently evident from a very young age.
"Even as a bald-headed 2-year-old Caroline had perfect pitch," says Fulton resident Connie Bowman of her daughter's singing ability. "She had such bravado and would always end with a really big finish which was hilarious."
At 12, a leading role
Connie Bowman, an actress herself, was active in community theater when Caroline was growing up and it didn't take long for the daughter to follow in her mother's footsteps. By the time she was 12, the performer landed her first lead role in a production of "The Secret Garden," staged by The Heritage Players in Catonsville.
From then on, it was full steam ahead.
"I noticed her talent immediately," says Susan Miller, Glenelg High School's theater arts teacher for the past 15 years. Even more impressive, she notes, was Bowman's work ethic.
"Caroline was the student who had the leading roles and yet was also the last one in the dressing room helping me clean at the end of the night."
"I was a total theater geek in high school," Bowman acknowledges.
In her freshman year, the actress won ensemble roles in Glenelg's fall and spring productions and by the following year, she was landing lead roles.
As a sophomore, she played Rizzo in "Grease" and in a unique casting decision; she also won the role of Leading Player in the musical "Pippin," a character normally played by a man.