Q&A with Lily Soto, our 2020 Outstanding Lead Actress

Outstanding Lead Actress Lily Soto

You may have noticed that the 2020 Spotlight Awards looked a little different this year.

There was no big celebration in TPAC’s Jackson Hall, but instead, there WAS a Virtual Celebration held on YouTube hosted by Broadway’s Will Blum. All awards were given out and there were even performances by Will and six finalists for Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Lead Actress. Lily Soto of Hume-Fogg Academic High School was named Outstanding Lead Actress for her portrayal of Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia!, and we couldn’t wait to get to know her better:

Q: What was the first show you ever performed in? 

Lily Soto: My first musical I did was in the 6th grade and I played Penny Russell in Murder at Crooked House.

Q: When and why did you get involved with theatre?

LS: When I lived in Franklin, my neighbors were in their high school’s musicals. The first show I saw them in was Bye Bye Birdie. I had never seen a musical before, let alone high school students performing on stage, but I loved every moment of it. I was 10 at the time so I had no idea how to get involved in musicals until I got to middle school and saw they had a theatre program. Even though I was so nervous, I knew I had to try out. I wanted to try out for the musicals, because it looked so much fun and that I could find a community for myself. I was hoping to find people who had the same interests as me that I could call a second family.

Q: Where were you when you found out you were nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress?

LS: I was in my living room with my family and my dog Rico.

Poster for Hume-Fogg's Mamma Mia!

Poster for Hume-Fogg’s production of “Mamma Mia!”

Q: What made your theatre experience this year different than previous years? Ten years from now, what will you remember about it?

LS: I feel like 2020 has been the craziest year yet for a number of reasons. I’ll always remember that I was lucky enough to perform in both Hume-Fogg’s musicals before the pandemic hit, which many students weren’t able to do within their own theatre programs this year. But this year was also the first time I got a lead role in a musical so I was beyond ecstatic. I was super nervous and put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job, but my music directors really helped me become more confident in my role and helped me break out of my shell. The support of my friends and cast mates also helped me throughout this crazy year. They’ve picked me up when I felt down and have always been there for me. This year was so different, because it really showed me that performing is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I feel the most comfortable on stage and love the people I meet along the way. I will always appreciate my last year at Hume-Fogg and will deeply miss my friends and teachers that have impacted my life so much.

Q: How did you approach your character for the show? What was the most fun part of portraying your character?

LS: In the show, Donna and Sophie have a very strong mother-daughter bond. I had no idea what it was like to be a mother so I looked at my own relationship that I have with my mother. My mom is like my best friend. We have a very close relationship, just like Donna and Sophie. To get into the mindset of being a mother I would put myself into my mom’s shoes and understand what it’s like to have a daughter. This role definitely made me feel more connected to my mom and appreciate all the things that she’s done for me over the years. The most fun part of portraying Donna was bringing my own personality into it and making people laugh at the jokes she had throughout the show. The costumes were also amazing, especially the platform heels.

Q: How are you celebrating winning Outstanding Lead Actress?

LS: I’m spending time with my family and friends.

Q: What’s next for your theatre career?

LS: This fall, I will be at NYU studying Vocal Performance at Steinhardt. I’m super excited to further my education in the arts and improve my performance skills in musical theatre and contemporary music.

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