The name Meredith Inglesby was once commonplace in the Hilton Head Island theater scene. It hasn't been in a while, but for good reason.
The name now is more likely to show up in a Broadway Playbill.
After recently completing a run in the Broadway production of "The Little Mermaid," Inglesby returns to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina for the first time in nearly a decade as part of "Shout! The Mod Musical."
"It's like I'm coming home," she said. "Hilton Head is home, of course. But I've got another home here at the arts center."
Born in Savannah, Inglesby grew up on Hilton Head, the child of Bill and Ellery. She had a "Lowcountry childhood" on the then-quaint island, she said. She swam and fished its waters. She also was a singer. The family coffee table was her stage. At Hilton Head Preparatory Academy, she starred in a few productions. But she said she didn't really start to think of herself as an actor until a bit later.
After graduating high school in 1993, she went to Rollins College to major in art history. Her plan was to work in an auction house in New York. But she got involved more and more in theater. One of her first major roles was as Eliza Doolittle in a production of "My Fair Lady" at the arts center. She then moved to New York with big dreams of Broadway. But she found the city a bit more challenging than expected. It took five months to work up the courage to start auditioning. She was a waitress/struggling actor for a while. Sometimes, she'd wake up at dawn just to wait in line for the chance to sign up for an audition. Often, those appointments already were filled.
"It was a rude awakening," she said. "But it was an adventure. I love adventures. If I'm scared of something, I want to confront it."
Roles eventually started to come her way. She took parts at regional theaters and joined touring shows. Her connections at Prep even came back to help her. Don Hite, her former drama teacher, had gone on to serve as a musical director at several shows across the country. He brought Inglesby on board whenever he could. Her performance of a James Robert Brown song, "Stars and the Moon," still sticks with him.
"I would have to hold for the applause to start the next number," he said. "I still hear Meredith when I play that song for other performers."
After years of regional theater work, she was booked on the Disney musical revue "On the Record." That led to her big break. She was cast as the saucy French feather duster Babette in the Broadway production of "Beauty and the Beast" in 2005.
"That was beyond words," she said. "It was an amazing moment in my life. I was surrounded by the best in my field. It was life changing -- in more ways than one."
She met her husband, who played the Beast, in the show. (The two are now expecting their first child in November.) She went on to play Ursula in "The Little Mermaid" on Broadway.
"I couldn't believe I could make a living at something I absolutely loved to do," she said.
Longtime arts center director Casey Colgan has known her since she was 15 when he was helping put on youth theater productions on the island. He directs her in "Shout!," one of many shows he's been at the helm with her in the cast. The two remain close, even visiting over holidays when they're both back in New York City.
"I think we all knew back then that she was a very special talent," she said. "I'm still waiting for her movie to come out."