Sandra Turley was 13 years old when she first saw the musical “Les Misérables” and knew what she wanted to do.
“I’m going to be there,” she said of one day being in the production. “I just didn’t see how to do it.”
Turley, both of her sisters and her three brothers grew up in a musical home in Connecticut. She pursued voice lessons, auditioned for local shows and researched what it would take to get there. When the time came for school, she applied to BYU.
She eventually found herself on Broadway in New York City performing the role of Cosette in “Les Misérables.”
Turley is scheduled to speak at several Time Out for Girls events this fall, including in Boise, Idaho, on Sept. 7-8, and Las Vegas on Sept. 21-22. Time Out for Girls events, which coincide with Time Out for Women events sponsored by Deseret Book, will also be in Salt Lake City, Oct. 26-27, and Portland, Nov. 2-3. For information, see www.deseretbook.com/timeout/tofg.
“I want them to be the most comfortable with the principles of the gospel,” said Turley of what she shares at these events. Also, she wants to see what their talents are and what they can do to work to fulfill those.
BYU to Broadway
“I learned about theater in that environment,” she said of being a student at BYU. She also performed the part of Ariel in Disney World's production of "The Little Mermaid.
When “Les Misérables” was touring Salt Lake City, the production held auditions, so she went to sing.
“This is what I wanted to do,” she said of possibly being in the show, figuring she had nothing to lose by auditioning.
She sang and then made the callbacks and didn’t hear anything for five weeks.
Suddenly, they were offering her the part of Cosette and she had two weeks to move to the East Coast.
“Maybe this is the big test,” Turley said of all decisions and changes in her life at that time. “All of the pieces fit together.”
Her husband, Josh, was able to transfer to another branch of the accounting firm he was working for. Since, he has worked for other companies, including Time Warner and Discovery Channel.
“Walking in (to the theater) in two hot seconds they knew I was Mormon,” Turley said. From there came many opportunities to share different aspects of the gospel, including some fairly deep conversations, and she had to be ready for questions.
By the end of her 3 ½ years on stage, “the walls were broken down,” she said.
She finished up her degree through correspondence classes.
“I was super lucky,” Turley said of being able to be on Broadway. There are hundreds of people who train and hone their craft, but don’t necessarily make it there.
When other aspiring Mormon singers ask her for advice, she tells them two things.
“Have a rock-solid testimony,” Turley said. “Without a testimony, the industry will eat you alive.”
And second, if at all possible, try to do something else. “It’s a tricky business for a religious person,” she said. “It’s a business: The industry expects you to market yourself and you become a product.”
While in New York and while she was performing, she served in her ward and stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the youth program, Josh Turley said. Also, when he was called to serve in a Spanish-speaking ward bishopric, she served with him.
They currently live in Maryland and she has a calling in Relief Society for the first time.
Each song on her debut CD "On Broadway,” which was released earlier this year by Shadow Mountain Records, represents a story from her life.
“The messages and stories transcend all ages and feelings,” Turley said of the 10 show tunes on the CD.
“The Girl in 14G” from “Thoroughly Modern Mille” reminds her of one of the first places they lived in New York City with an eclectic group of neighbors.
“For Good” from “Wicked” is sung with her sister and is about “the people around us and how they affect our lives,” Turley said, including one very “tender and profound experience.”
They had adopted a baby and had her for five weeks when the birth mother wanted the baby back.
“It was life-defining,” she said. “A little 5-pound baby girl changed our life for good.”
It also taught her about the Atonement and using it to find peace and charity, including love for the birth mother.
Now they have three young children — a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 3-year-old — with one on the way.
And then, “On My Own” from "Les Misérables" just brings back memories from her days in the show.
She also shares songs from “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Sound of Music” and “Little Women.” One of her young daughters joins her in the “Les Misérables Melody.”