Marquette Wire

Stepping out to find her niche

'Anything Goes' actress performs in first MU Theatre lead

Norton%2C+center%2C+with+the+cast+of+%22Anything+Goes.%22+The+MU+Theatre+show+runs+April+6-9+and+19-23+at+the+Helfaer.+
Norton, center, with the cast of

Norton, center, with the cast of "Anything Goes." The MU Theatre show runs April 6-9 and 19-23 at the Helfaer.

Norton, center, with the cast of "Anything Goes." The MU Theatre show runs April 6-9 and 19-23 at the Helfaer.

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Caroline Norton never visited Milwaukee, didn’t own a winter coat and hadn’t lived in a town bigger than 8,000 since third grade. The Alabama native only applied to the one school — Marquette — simply because it checked all the boxes.

Almost two semesters later, the freshman in the College of Communication is starring as Bonnie, the gangster’s girlfriend, in “Anything Goes”.

“I always felt excitement when I got to a big city and I knew this is where I wanted to be,” Norton said. “Some people are made to live in the south…I know I’m not one of them.”

Though she’s found a home at Marquette, adjusting to the city was rough. “Life (in the south) is a lot slower, but here everything is happening all the time,” she said.

At home, she only had a few things to worry about. Would they hang out at the local Sonic or Wal-Mart? Would they drive 45 minutes to a Huntsville bowling alley or movie theatre to get some real fun?

Furthermore, she had a hard time understanding the northern culture that was strangely filled with people acting like they’re from the south, and northerners had a hard time understanding her southern drawl.

During Orientation, she constantly had to repeat herself, explain to everyone where she came from and deal with the traditional southern stereotypes of boots and country music. Funny enough, she prefers indie rock and alternative.

But the real reason she was willing to take the 700 mile trek north is because of Marquette Theatre. Playing Bonnie will be her first lead role in a college production.

“I was so excited when I first found out because I didn’t think I was gonna get it,” she said. “I was just a Podunk freshman who showed up and tried to do a Jersey accent.”

Norton prefers to remain humble, but she’s certainly more than Podunk. In Alabama, she was a heralded actress who won multiple state awards and finished third in the race for chairperson of the International Thespian Society.

She didn’t just show up with a cobbled together accent, she studied hours of Snookie interviews and gleaned re-runs of the Wendy Williams show to concoct the perfect Jersey gangster sound.

“She brought the character immediately,” Ray Jivoff, the director of “Anything Goes,” said. “Actually, the first accent I hear from her was the Jersey, and I didn’t even know about the Southern until weeks into the show.”

That kind of talent and dedication is something which hasn’t gone unnoticed in the eyes of her castmates.

“Every actor wants to work with somebody that puts in 100 percent effort all the time,” Michael Nicholas, a junior in the College of Communication, who plays Norton’s onstage girlfriend, Moonface, said. “The southern accent is what grabs people’s attention, but what’s really great about Caroline is when you’re able to tune out that accent and listen to her.”

Similar to Norton, Nicholas knows about taking a chance and stepping outside a comfort zone.

All through his life, he considered himself a sports guy. His dad coached track, and he desperately wanted to follow in his footsteps. However, his sophomore year of high school, his friend convinced him to try out for choir, and after he made that, he gave the musical a shot too.

“You go your whole life doing one thing; you’re a sporty person,” he said. “Then, theatre became the most important thing in my life and I started to miss track practices. It was a pivotal shift.”

Eight main stage shows later in the Marquette Theatre program, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“When you find something you like, (you) just stick with it. I finally found something I could dig in and make my own,” he said.

Norton had that same feeling when her mom dragged her to tryouts for Annie in the fourth grade.

“I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I said, ‘Here I go, everyone watch me,'” she said. “I was really out there, but I met other crazy people so it worked out.”

Norton still has a bit of that crazy, evidenced by her constant poking and prodding of castmates, onstage side comments and general goofiness, but Marquette theatre has taken her into their similarly crazy family and accepted her as their newest southern daughter.

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