Arlington actress comes home for Christmas in '101 Dalmatians'

Lenny Megliola

If you catch Erin Maguire humming "I'll Be Home For Christmas," it's not just because it's that time of year.

Maguire is an actress from Arlington, and in all her musical theater life, in all her years on the road with touring shows, Maguire's never performed in Boston. Until now.

She'll perform several roles in "The 101 Dalmatians Musical," which has a short run at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre Dec. 23-27. Instead of being holed up in a hotel room, Maguire says, "I'll stay with my family in Arlington. I couldn't ask for anything better. I have friends from elementary school that have never seen me perform."

The show has been touring the country, which makes home for Christmas extra special for Maguire. "I'm maxed out on hotels," she says. And staying in Arlington means "I save some per diem cash."

When Maguire was a kid, her parents took her to shows at the Wang. "I was obsessed with theater. My family knew I wasn't going to do anything else with my life."

Maguire once told a friend, "If they ever make '101 Dalmatians' a musical I'll be in it." The next day, she learned that was going to happen. Auditions were in May. She couldn't get there fast enough. For some reason, Maguire just felt this show fit her. "I was never so calm before at an audition."

Many of the actors had to learn to walk on stilts. That took some getting used to, but "I was comfortable with it in a month," Maguire says. "Now I feel I could run a marathon with stilts."

She also plays a Dalmatian. "If you play a dog, you're on the floor. If you play a human, you're on stilts. It's a really cool concept. It's never been done before."

The touring cast, though, is something else. "We travel with 15 live Dalmatians, a cast of 35, including eight kids who travel with their parents and teachers." It gets a little chaotic at times, but "the show is a well-oiled machine, and the music is memorable," Maguire says. "This is a brand-new musical. It's amazing to create something from scratch."

Other shows she's toured with include "Seussical" with former gymnast Cathy Rigby, "Forbidden Broadway" and "The Cat in the Hat."

When she was a kid, Maguire imagined being on stage. "When I was home alone I'd always sing with a hairbrush in front of the mirror. Once I saw shows at the Wang I couldn't wait to get to high school to do shows." At Arlington High, she played the plum part of Adelaide in "Guys and Dolls." It wouldn't be the last time. Professionally, she's been Adelaide three times.

While still in high school, Maguire worked with an improv group in Somerville. "Everyone was 30 or over. I was 17." She also was a member of several ensembles at Waltham's renowned Reagle Players which cast professionals. She took it all in like a sponge.

Maguire attended Ithaca College in upstate New York. "I knew I was going to study musical theater, no matter what." A semester in London was a bonus.

She went to New York in 1999. "The first year, all I could seem to land was sketch comedy. I was getting a lot of exposure, but I thought, 'Why do I only get sketch?"' When she found out "Guys and Dolls" was being cast. "I crashed an audition. I was going to sit there until they saw me." She got the part. "It all started rolling from there."

In 2003 Maguire toured with "Seussical," her first big tour. It was about to get bigger. Cathy Rigby hurt her back as the show was about to open. "I got to go on for her the first week."

It was a rush job. "The stage manager said 'Cathy's out.' I had two hours to learn her lines."

Last Christmas, Maguire was in a show in Los Angeles. "It was so far away. I wondered where I'd be this Christmas." Then she found out it would be Boston. "I called my mother. She was so excited. My boyfriend, who is in 'The Lion King' in New York, is going to be able to come up and see the show."

For Erin Maguire, it's home for Christmas at last. "Born and raised in Arlington, and proud," she boasts.

Which is how her family and friends will feel when the curtain goes up. Proud.

E-mail MetroWest Daily News writer Lenny Megliola at lennymegs@aol.com.

THE ESSENTIALS:

"The 101 Dalmatians Musical"

Dec. 23-27

Citi Wang Theatre, Boston

Tickets: $28-$75

Info: 886-348-9738, citicenter.org