In the August Netflix release of 13: The Musical, Gabriella Uhl plays Patrice marking her feature film and screen debut, and she reunited with the cast earlier this year for the Netflix screening at The Paris Theater. Gabriella filmed the screen adaptation of 13: The Musical for five months in Toronto during the pandemic and she is part of the film’s soundtrack recording, which features music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. On stage, Gabriella played Sophie in the Broadway National Tour of School of Rock across 63 cities, and during her time in the musical, she understudied the roles of Summer, Tomika, Shonelle and Marcy, and her training includes classical ballet, jazz, tap and modern dance. We found out from Gabriella about her time filming for 13: The Musical, playing Patrice for her feature film and screen debut and performing as Sophie in the Broadway National Tour of School of Rock.
Do you remember how you felt booking the role of Patrice in the Netflix screen adaptation 13: The Musical and how much did you know about the musical before auditioning?
I was a HUGE fan of the stage musical for years before I booked the role of Patrice. That the film adaptation even happened when I would BE 13 felt like a miracle. Patrice was my dream role and when I booked it, I was just beyond happy. It was the happiest I had ever been to book something.
Can you tell us about your character Patrice and what was she like to play?
Patrice is a big-city girl who’s misunderstood in a small town. She was different in every way from the other girls in the movie – my wardrobe was different, hair, everything about Patrice was different and to support her character and story, those differences were really highlighted. My favourite part of playing her was getting to sing the iconic songs Jason Robert Brown wrote for Patrice. They are two of the best songs for a tween or teen girl to sing because they push us as musicians and they tap into real, age-appropriate situations and emotions.
How was it working with the rest of the cast and what was it like on set of the film?
We had been in our houses, literally in our houses, for a year when we arrived in Toronto to make this movie. Getting to meet and work with the incredible cast of teens, who became and still are some of my very best friends, in the middle of a pandemic was such a gift. We worked hard and had so much fun.
Was there anything you enjoyed most about working on the film and how was it having 13: The Musical as your feature film and screen debut?
My favourite part of making this movie was recording the soundtrack. Georgia Stitt and the music team worked us hard so we would be prepared and able to perform our best in the studio. I really enjoyed and learned a lot from that process.
What was it like attending the Netflix screening at The Paris Theater earlier this year and how was it seeing the completed film for the first time?
I was so happy to see so many of my friends from the cast again at the screening! We are all spread out around North America and don’t really get to spend much time together in person anymore. I know a lot of movies that were made and released during the pandemic didn’t get to have an in-person screening, so I feel really thankful Netflix was able to bring us together for an event.
What are some of your favourite memories from filming as Patrice in 13: The Musical?
Aside from just the magic of being on set with a fantastic cast and professional, caring crew, I loved spending five months in Toronto. Most of it was during pandemic shutdowns, but once things started reopening, we enjoyed patio dining and walks in a really friendly city. Our health and safety coordinators on set kept us safe for all that time, and I was thankful for the opportunity to be somewhere so exciting when I otherwise would have still been at home.
You played Sophie on the Broadway National Tour of School of Rock, what was the musical like to be part of?
School of Rock was so fun because the whole point of the musical was to show kids that they could make music too. I’m still friends with some of the cast and crew from that company and having them as my tour family was really special. I was with that tour from opening to closing and going to 63 cities was an experience I’ll never forget.
What was Sophie like to play and how was it understudying the roles of Summer, Tomika, Shonelle and Marcy?
The Sophie track in the touring show actually combined two of the Broadway roles together, Sophie and Madison, so Sophie was kind of all over the place and had a lot to remember in the show. This made Sophie a great role to start in as an understudy. I was originally cast to play Sophie and understudy Tomika, but as the tour went on, I was offered the chance to understudy Marcy, Shonelle, and Summer. I was cast when I was nine, so getting to know the show from the perspective of so many roles was really exciting for me and also challenging. I had so much support from the dance captains and stage managers any time I went on in one of my understudy roles.
How did you find the experience touring for the first time and do you have any stand-out highlights from your time on tour that you can tell us about?
I loved touring – I’d do it again for sure if I ever had the chance. The theatres we played on tour were bigger than Broadway theatres, so eight times a week we were performing for literally thousands of people. I’m a big foodie, so it was really fun to experience amazing local restaurants in every city we lived in.
How different was it working on a screen musical opposed to a stage musical?
There are a few differences. In live theatre, I had to be physically and mentally ready to do the show eight times a week with the same enthusiasm and focus for every new audience. On School of Rock, I did the show almost 700 times! I also had to be ready at a moment’s notice, sometimes even in the middle of the show, to switch gears and go on as another character. That doesn’t happen in a movie musical, we didn’t have understudies. An interesting thing I had to do in the movie was record the songs I sang weeks before I filmed the scenes of those songs, and on camera, I was only allowed to sing very softly to the recording. In that process, I learned that I could still use my face and body to tell the song’s story even if I wasn’t actually singing in the moment that was being filmed.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
I was born to two parents who were, at the time, both professional musicians, so it was easy for me to just assume that everyone goes on stage! I started taking dance classes when I was in preschool and I was so comfortable performing. Singing and acting just followed.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I really love rom-coms and my favourites are You’ve Got Mail and The Holiday. Both feature fantastic actors that really bring the characters and the stories to life and I get completely taken away by the movie. I’ve also been really lucky to grow up close enough to New York City to get to see lots of Broadway shows. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I really enjoy Friends. It’s so fun to watch how perfectly the ensemble cast works together.
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I spend a lot of time at my dance studio, which is extra fun because that’s where I get to see friends I’ve had since I was really little. I absolutely love the winter season and try to ice skate with my sister and my friends as much as I can. Probably the thing I do most though, is hang out with my dog. He’s like my shadow and wants to be wherever I am, whether I’m just doing school or going to the bathroom!
What are you hoping the upcoming year brings for your career?
I realise that being a young person and having the career experiences I’ve had is really extraordinary, and no matter what I will always be thankful for those. The best thing right now is that I actually love training between jobs. I love studying classical ballet, jazz, tap, and modern dance, I have an amazing voice teacher, and every audition I get to do is a chance to get better at becoming a character and telling their story. I would, of course, love to work on stage, on camera, or even as a voice actor, but I can also be happy if the coming year is filled with opportunities for me to keep working and getting better.
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