Jenna Underhill
Jenna Underhill
Jenna Underhill of Bedford, Ky., will play the lead role of Jenny Lind in "When Jenny Lind Came To Town" at Hanover College's Fitzgibbon Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday and at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Underhill, a 2011 graduate of Trimble County High School, is the daughter of Paula and Michael Underhill of Bedford. She is currently a sophomore majoring in communications and theater at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.

In addition to her role as Jenny Lind, Underhill is also the play's assistant director. She will play opposite veteran actor Tom Dunbar of Louisville, who as legendary promoter P.T. Barnum brings the "Swedish Nightingale" from her native country on a tour of America and Cuba between 1850 and 1852.

Louisville and Cincinnati were among Lind's original destinations, but not Madison. It took a heroic effort from Madison porkhouse worker Billy Wilson to convince Barnum to bring Lind to his hometown for one performance.

From April 5-7, the play will also be presented at the Clifton Center in Louisville prior to the Kentucky Derby.

The musical, a fact-based, fictionalized historical docudrama by Kentucky playwright Mike Smith of Shelbyville, Ky., is directed by Bill Breuer of Louisville, along with musical director Lynne Chenault of Shelbyville, Ky.

The core cast is comprised primarily of professional and semi-professional actors from the Louisville area with Madison area talent playing ensemble and chorus roles.

Underhill recently appeared in "Faery's Kiss," also directed by Breuer. She began dance lessons at age 4 and has acted since age 5 when she auditioned for the musical "Annie" and got the part of Molly, the youngest orphan. She says her favorite role was Louisa in "Fantasticks," a "true love story," she added.

"Jenny Lind is an interesting role for me because I've never portrayed someone who is famous," Underhill said. "There aren't any recordings of her so I don't have much to base a character off of.

"That could be a good thing because it leaves the role open for me to infer and decide how to portray her. But it is definitely a challenge because Jenny Lind is so respected, so I have the responsibility to make sure that I do portray her in the most effective way."

The audience will meet such characters as Kentucky Sen. Henry Clay and Gen. Tom Thumb, and hear the popular music of the period, including operettas and Celtic music.

"I do feel a connection with Jenny Lind," Underhill said. "She knew what she wanted. She was strong and independent. That's how I see myself."

Tickets are $12.50 in advance and $15 at the door for adults; $10 in advance and $12 at the door for seniors (65 and over), as well as Hanover College faculty, staff and students; and $5 for youth who are high school age and under. Discount tickets are available at the Madison Visitor Center and by calling 812-265-6296.