In the course of the development of Paramour, the character who will be played by Ruby Lewis was alternately called “The Girl,” “The Poetess,” and “The Leading Lady.” Of all the names, the young actress says that she likes “Leading Lady” best.
“It’s more sophisticated,” says Lewis, the daughter of a working-class family from a small Kentucky town. “I never attended a cotillion, but I grew up wanting to be a lady, very elegant and with proper manners.”
Lewis brought a whole lot more than that to a three-day audition last summer in New York. In the new Cirque du Soleil show, she plays a young actress emotionally torn between a mercurial director who offers her movie fame and a composer who offers his heart.
“Theater producers dream of discovering someone like Ruby who not only has a powerhouse voice and electrifying dancing, but is also a terrific actress,” says Scott Zeiger who is overseeing Paramour for Cirque du Soleil. “She’s a star in the making.”
The producers of Paramour were intrigued when they saw Lewis perform in Los Angeles in For the Record: Baz, a revue inspired by the films of Baz Luhrmann. Among other roles in this postmodern cabaret, Lewis was playing Daisy opposite the Gatsby of her boyfriend, Ciaran McCarthy, when the producers decided to scope out the show for a possible Las Vegas engagement.
When the revue transferred to a nightclub in Vegas’s Mandalay Bay in early summer, Lewis went along, and a couple of months later was flown to New York for the audition. It caught the actress by surprise. “I had no idea that I was on somebody’s radar for something so huge,” she says. “I come from a very hardworking family where it was always ‘Do it right or don’t do it at all.’ And I guess it paid off.”
Graduating from Western Kentucky University with a 4.0 grade point average was a part of that work ethic, as was subsequently plunging into touring productions of Gypsy, Grease, Jersey Boys, and We Will Rock You. The decade of what Lewis calls her “touring twenties” yielded to doing television and theater work in Los Angeles until her stint in Baz led to her career-changing discovery. The irony is not lost on her that with a name like Ruby, she should be now be tasked with exemplifying the glamour and romance of Hollywood’s Golden Age typified in the films of Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
Named for a maternal grandmother (“I owe her a lot”), Lewis says that she was always enamored with the classic movie musical. “I used to swing dance with my dad in the living room all the time,” she says. “My mom would buy me the box sets of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly. I always had big dreams of bringing that very pure and delightful innocence back, and I hope that Paramour will help do that.”
Lewis says that she wasn’t all that familiar with the Cirque esthetic until she moved to Las Vegas. Her appreciation grew exponentially as she met the artists there, and again when, once cast in Paramour, she was flown to Montreal for some acrobatic courses. “I felt like a kid,” she says. “It was all very natural. I flew and flipped and did a few stunts. If they allow me to fly around, I’ll be one happy lady.”
As fearless as she was in Cirque’s studios, Lewis admits to having had a few sleepless nights as she contemplates the pressures of her new challenge. Those start with the Thanksgiving Day Parade, where she will be singing the title song form Paramour.
“I’m having a little anxiety now because I’m so excited and want to represent the show to the best of my ability,” she says, adding that it already has, in true Cirque fashion, expanded her creative horizons. “They think outside the box. There really are no boundaries and they come up with the craziest things. To be a part of that is a dream come true for any artist.”