2014 Theatre Arts Grad Alanna Saunders to Take the Stage as Tiger Lily in Peter Pan Live!

Musical Will Air on NBC on December 4 at 8 p.m.

’Canes have an extra reason to tune in to Peter Pan Live!, airing on NBC on December 4. Alanna Saunders, a 2014 graduate of the UM College of Arts & Sciences Department of Theatre Arts, will be playing the role of Tiger Lily – Peter Pan’s loyal friend and the daughter of Neverland’s Native Chief.

“Everything about this opportunity is amazing,” Saunders said. “I get to work alongside incredible and incredibly talented people and idols. It’s going to be a live performance on NBC, I was chosen to be a principal in this amazing production, and the opportunities that this will create are only the beginning! All of that while doing what I love? There’s absolutely nothing better.”

Saunders earned her B.F.A. in musical theatre this past spring. She said her experience at UM shaped both the person and performer she is today.

“The theatre arts program made me examine myself – not only how I am perceived in the world, but also how I perceive myself. Going into the arts, it is so important to know who you are. … Your soul needs to be prepared, just as much as your craft. The theatre (arts) department helped me do that,” she said.

Saunders called theatre arts professors NDavid Williams (music) and Christine Kellogg (dance) her “guiding lights” during her time on campus. Both are enthusiastic about this opportunity for their former student.

Williams said, “Alanna is so deserving of the good luck that has come her way. I couldn’t be prouder. (Her) greatest asset is to bring to her remarkable talent a sense of joy and warmth that reaches far past the footlights to the back of the theatre.”

Kellogg said, “Alanna is a talented, intelligent, beautiful, and kind young woman with a great family behind her. It was truly a pleasure working with her for four years and I will always be fan of hers, as an actress/singer/dancer and as a human being.”

Saunders has been honing her musical and acting skills since the tender age of four, when she participated in her first musical. She grew up outside of Seattle, Washington, one of five children – who are all performers and musicians.

Her older brothers are also proud ’Canes. Heath graduated with a B.M. in vocal performance/musical theater from the Frost School of Music in 2011. He plays piano, cello, oboe, saxophone, recorder, guitar and ukulele – and has appeared in many productions in New York and regional theatre. Trent also earned his B.M. from Frost in 2013. He is currently appearing in Aladdin on Broadway, and he starred as St. Jimmy in the national and international tours of Green Day’s American Idiot.

Saunders great grandmother on her father’s side was part of the Cherokee Nation. Peter Pan’s portrayal of the Native American characters has been an ongoing point of contention; casting Saunders as Tiger Lily has allayed some controversy for the Peter Pan Live! production.

“I am a descendent of the Cherokee Nation, which helps this depiction,” she said, adding, “There has been a good amount of revamping the music, book, and lyrics to make the Native American references accurate.”

Saunders is a seasoned stage actress. This summer, she starred in Gypsy (June) and A Chorus Line (Diana Morales) with the Connecticut Repertory Theatre. At UM, she took leading roles in Metamorphoses and Floyd Collins.

She said that, while Peter Pan Live! is “still musical theatre and still most definitely live,” it is different than a typical stage performance. “It’s like your audience is always moving while you perform,” she said, adding that the lack of a live audience will feel “odd.”

Nevertheless, she is looking forward to December 4 with great anticipation. “I go into rehearsal everyday so excited because I am so thankful and feel so blessed to have been chosen for this. The whole thing blows my mind a little.”

November 24, 2014