Maddie “pink taps” Hilligoss makes the cut at the Ordway


Sydney Lewis, Editor-In-Chief

      Maddie Hilligoss opened the doors to the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, pink tap shoes in hand, ready for her first audition at a professional theatre company. As she entered, she recognized people, not from everyday life, but from seeing them onstage. Her fellow auditioners were musical theatre majors, professional actors and tap dancers. At 17 years old, Hilligoss was the youngest there by at least 5 years. 

      Hilligoss decided to audition on a whim. One of her dance teachers at Prairie School of Dance invited her to go audition with him. She first wrote it off, thinking she would never have the credentials to get cast in a show at the Ordway. Eventually, she looked into it and decided to audition. She put her audition materials together in three days and auditioned right before winter break.

      At the first audition, they were put through a series of dances, and only after that were they asked to sing for the directors. Hilligoss chose a song from the musical “Amelie.” In her singing audition, she expected to sing and leave. But after she sang, the directors asked if she had anything else to sing. She didn’t since she was only asked to prepare one song. 

      The directors asked her what pop music she listens to on the radio. Admittedly, she said, she is “more of a spotify playlist kind of girl” and that she “only listens to choir and broadway music.” She told them about a folk pop song that she sang at a pepfest earlier this year. They asked her to sing part of it. Without being given a starting note, she sang her part, the harmony, to a song she hadn’t rehearsed in months. The process seemed very loose and unstructured, different from how Hilligoss expected the audition to be at a professional theater company. 

      Hilligoss has been tapping for years, with many organizations and companies around Minneapolis. The tap scene in Minneapolis, Hilligoss says, is more focused on rhythm and improvisation based tap, and is moving away from broadway style tap. Her experience in this style of tap helped her to impress the choreographer, who kept her around for callbacks. 

      In the callbacks, the roughly 1,000 auditioners were cut down to 30 people, most of whom were professionals, including past cast members of “42nd Street” in Chicago. Hilligoss was shocked when she found out she was invited back for a callback the next day.

      Going into the callback, she assumed she had no chance at being cast, so she decided to lay it all out on the line.  When asked to improvise a tap solo, Hilligoss excelled because she wasn’t nervous. In her eyes, she had nothing to lose, and she was just there to learn and have a good time. Because of that, she was able to dance her best and not worry about the repercussions of messing up. 

      On Christmas Eve, Hilligoss got a call from the production team, telling her that they would like to cast her. They found out that she wasn’t 18 at the time of the audition and needed to confirm when she would be 18. They explained that this was not her official offer and that she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. Hilligoss found it very difficult not to tell anyone that she was just cast in a show at a professional theater company. 

      A month passed and she heard nothing from the producers. Eventually, they called with her official offer to be a chorus member for “42nd Street.” She found out later that in that month, the team travelled to New York City and Chicago to audition people because they weren’t satisfied with those that auditioned in Minneapolis. 

      Though her dancing was impressive, that wasn’t the only thing that made her stand out. Her “pink taps,” as she calls them, became her trademark throughout the audition process. The directing staff, along with other auditioners only referred to her as “pink taps,” not even knowing her real name. One of the producers jokingly told her that she was going to have to wear only those shoes to all rehearsals from now on.

      Throughout her journey to becoming a cast member of “42nd Street” Hilligoss proved that age doesn’t define talent. Though she was years younger than most other auditioners, she showed that she is a phenomenal dancer. Hilligoss says, “The show is about an underdog and I think, in a way, I was their underdog.”