"It's an emotional role and I thought Caroline could pull it off," Miller says.
Evidently, she was right. That year, Bowman's performance in "Pippin" won her the award for "Best Leading Actress in a Musical" at the Cappies, a program that honors the best in high school theater. She took home a golden trophy again the following year for her turn as Marian, in "The Music Man." At Glenelg, the actress also starred in productions of "Fame" and "Once Upon a Mattress" and would occasionally cross paths in the hallways with her father, Rob Bowman, the school's wrestling coach.
"Both of my parents were always super supportive."
That entailed toting their daughter to rehearsals for the Howard County Chorus and classes at the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts founded by Toby Orenstein, co-owner and artistic director of Toby's Dinner Theatre.
"I got my first professional acting job from Toby Orenstein," says Bowman of performing at the venerable Columbia theater.
Trips to China, Turkey
By the time it came for Bowman to head off to college, it was clear she would pursue an acting career. In 2010, she graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre. During her senior year at the university, the actress traveled to China to perform the lead in "Fame," and in Turkey she once again played Rizzo in "Grease." With the ink barely dry on her diploma, she then landed the role of The Lady of the Lake in a national touring production of the musical, "Spamalot." The part calls for a big-voiced belter and offered Bowman the chance to sing several show-stopping numbers.
When the 10-month long tour came to an end, Bowman returned to Howard County for a few regional acting gigs before following her dream to make it on Broadway. Her move to New York City two years ago was partially funded with the $2,500 she was awarded as the second-place finisher in the 2007 Howard County Arts Council's Rising Star competition.
Within just a few weeks of moving to the Big Apple, Bowman got that phone call to join the Tony Award winning musical, "Wicked." She was cast in the ensemble and as the understudy for the lead role of the green-skinned witch, Elphaba.
"Being an understudy is very challenging," says Bowman. "After each performance, I would go home and practice Elphaba's lines just in case I got the call that I needed to go on. I wanted the lines to be the last thing on my mind, so I wouldn't panic if I had to step in."
As it turned out, Bowman got to perform the lead role on three separate occasions, and friends and family were there to see it happen.
"Watching Caroline on Broadway for the first time was the most exciting night of my professional career," says Susan Miller, Bowman's former drama teacher. "I was holding her grandma's hand when (Caroline) walked on stage. It was truly a magical moment."
Bowman was still part of the "Wicked" troupe when she auditioned for a new musical based on a 2005 film about a struggling shoemaker and his drag queen business partner. The show eventually got the green light, and Bowman was part of the original cast when it opened in Chicago in October of 2012. Six months later "Kinky Boots," with music by pop star Cyndi Lauper, debuted on Broadway. In June, the show won six Tony Awards including Best Musical.
During the awards ceremony, Bowman made her national television debut when the cast of "Kinky Boots" performed live near the end of the program.
"That whole day I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience," the actress recalls. "We had to wake up really early for a dress rehearsal at Radio City Music Hall and then we got get bused back across town to our own theater to do a matinee show."
After taking their final bow at the end of that afternoon performance, the "Kinky Boots" cast got back on the bus to close out the Tony Awards show. It was a long day, so what happened next isn't all that surprising.
"After we came off the stage, I literally passed out," Bowman says with a laugh. "I don't know what happened but I fell to the ground. It was crazy how excited I was ... I was fine right after."
Many callbacks for 'Evita'
Given what was happening in Bowman's life at the time, it's understandable how she may have felt a bit overwhelmed. Just a month before her TV debut, the actress learned she had won the leading role in the national tour of "Evita."
"I found out I got the part on May 7, which is Eva Peron's birthday," Bowman says.