On a recent Thursday, a nondescript beige sedan pulled up to the Broadway Theatre’s stage door on 53rd street, and out stepped Carly Rae Jepsen, until recently known only from her international hit single, “Call Me Maybe.” She is now the new Cinderella on Broadway. Petite and donning a gray cap, she jumped over piles of trash bags and curbside snow. Once inside, she shuffled through the theater’s backstage labyrinth and enchanting woodland scenery to her dressing room, which looked as if conjured from a girl’s princess daydream: the walls were cupcake-icing pink, and a chandelier hung overhead.
Robert Hartwell, a performer who was previously in the show, designed the room and its antechamber specifically for Ms. Jepsen’s Broadway debut in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
“He asked me what I wanted – he’s like, ‘Do you want me to go earthy?’ and “I’m like, ‘Marie Antoinette – let them eat cake,’” she said, giggling.
It was 5:45 p.m., and the show started at the stroke of 7. Ms. Jepsen had been having trouble sleeping in New York and had stayed up the past two nights.
“I used to have really bad insomnia when I was a little girl,” she said. “And it’s starting to happen, which is exciting, cause I’ve been writing. But not good for the sleep thing, so if I look like I’m half alive, that’s why. The song I was working on today, the hook line is the question, ‘Will I be lucky in love?’ I think that’s part of the adventure. I don’t know how the story goes next.”
Ms. Jepsen, as it stands, is a one-hit wonder fighting against the stigma of that label. As she tries to develop her next pop hit in the middle of the night, her appearance on Broadway allows her to expand the breadth of her renown while also maintaining her Polyanna-ish branding; she’s maintained an image of purity unlike Justin Bieber, who helped discover her.
“I think part of my sanity in all of this is not being overly concerned with how I’m perceived,” Ms. Jepsen said. “I never really pay much attention to ‘Am I being perceived as good?’”
That said, Ms. Jepsen was struck by how wholesome her Broadway character is. She insisted she herself has an edge, though the best she could come up with was a recent argument with a cab driver. (“I think maybe being Canadian,” she said, “if anything it’s usually like, you run us over, and we’re like, ‘Sorry.’”)
Ms. Jepsen began applying foundation with a cosmetic sponge, denying any skill as a make-up artist and saying she was a tomboy.
“Do I have any more lashes?” she said suddenly, sliding open the drawer on the vanity. She held up an extra-long pair she scrounged up. “Guys, Cinderella goes tranny.”
Almost on cue, in walked the production stage manager Ira Mont for his nightly notes.
“I don’t know that I had that much for you, my dear,” Mr. Mont said. “Tree dress was good. Something happened with spider cape last night. Standing on it or something. And you even controlled the giggles.” This referred to a moment when Joe Carroll, Ms. Jepsen’s Prince Charming, tripped during a speech at the ball about the importance of kindness.
“He slips, and goes, ‘Kindness,’” Ms. Jepsen said, “and it’s the intro line right before one of the most romantic songs. He knows that in rehearsal if he had slipped like that, then I’d be giggling hysterically. So he was looking at me, and I can see the ‘please’ in his eyes.”
“The only note I have for you,” Mr. Mont continued, “actually is a blocking note, it’s not an acting note. It was a very good performance last night. Stay on the stairs with that boy when you’re trying to leave. Your last line is, ‘I don’t want to but I have to.’ Stay there until you say that.”
He ran through the scene in detail, and when he left, Ms. Jepsen grabbed a tube of glue.
“This is the scariest part,” she said. “This is the lash. I actually considered hiring someone on the sly.”
Danny Koye, her wig artist, entered the room.
“Eyes,” he said, noting her lashes were mismatched.
“They’re supposed to be sisters, not twins,” she said.
The glue was still a little clumped and goopy.
“Contour,” Mr. Koye said, noting her cheek make-up needed more of it.
Holli Campbell, the assistant company manager, entered with paycheck envelopes, and just then Mr. Mont returned, Cosmo Kramer-ing into the room. By this point Ms. Jepsen was wearing her Cinderella wig.
“Sorry…I just forgot,” Mr. Mont said.
“I knew it was too good to be true,” Ms. Jepsen said.
“And it’s a bullshit thing,“ he said. “One of our co-producers is here tonight with her niece. Amy will have her on stage.”
“On stage, perfect…”
“In the wings. You’ll say hello.”
“Of course,” Ms. Jepsen said.
She now vibrated her lips like a horse nicker. She picked up the extra long lashes and gave a seductive, diabolical look at Mr. Koye.
“Ten minutes ago, I met you,” she purred, practicing a line.
Kirstin Tucker, the dance captain, came in for her feedback.
“Hit me,” Ms. Jepsen said.
Tucker had a note on the song “In My Own Little Corner,” where Ms. Jepsen pantomimes holding an extended barrel rifle.
“Just watch your gun to make it really look like it’s a gun,” she says.
“I’ve never held a gun before,” Ms. Jepsen said. “Have you?”
“Yes, I’m from the South,” Ms. Tucker said.
Ms. Tucker concluded saying she wanted some of Ms. Jepsen’s reactions to the magic throughout the show to be more pronounced.
“Once you’re in the carriage, you can be more excited,” Ms. Tucker said. “Like you can turn around, you can take it all in.”
“More excited,” Ms. Jepsen said. “I feel so freaking excited.”
“No,” Ms. Tucker said. “You can be so much bigger.”