Kidding around for a living
Laura Dadap isn’t a TV star, but she plays one in Nickelodeon’s Story Time Live, which opens at Radio City Music Hall on March 31. Dadap plays Kai-lan, the adventurous preschool-aged character in Nickelodeon’s animated series “Ni Hao, Kai-Lan.”
Traveling the country
Dadap and about 15 other cast members — who also play characters from Nickelodeon’s shows, such as “Dora the Explorer,” the “Backyardigans” and the “Wonder Pets” — have been on tour with the show since early February. Their U.S. tour will take them to more 70 cities, where they perform two or three shows a day.
A musical household
Dadap, 23, grew up in a musical household in Queens and starting hamming it up for audiences early on. She learned her voice skills LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and the Performing Arts, and majored in acting at Emerson College. She says her training prepared her for the physical demands of the role, as well as the travel.
The preschool set
Playing to the preschool set takes a lot of energy and patience, said Dadap. As Kai-lan, Dadap performs while preschoolers “sing along and dance in the aisles.”
During one of the first shows, she ran out on to the stage and yelled: “I’m Kai-lan.” A child in the audience yelled “No, I’m Kai-lan!” back at her. “They act just like they do at home; they talk to the TV. I just had to keep going with the plot.”
The cast also makes other appearances. Dadap and the actress who plays Dora recently made smoothies at a Whole Foods in Illinois to teach children healthy eating to promote the show.
Getting the gig
Actors, singers and dancers usually get auditions for the Nickelodeon Live Show through agents. Dadap was actually interning at a casting office when she was asked to audition.
Playing a cartoon character requires a lot of energy, as well as a sense of adventure. “It’s not for people who need stability or who don’t want to be on the road,” she said. Also, you have to like kids.
Actors in the Nickelodeon Live show get a weekly salary and a per diem. For Dadap, traveling with her fellow cast members, who’ve become like “a little family,” and being on stage are the biggest rewards.