Photo courtesy of Audrey Dukes
There’s no truer sentiment in travel than “it’s a small world,” especially as my wife, Heidi Leppert, and I discovered aboard Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Star in the Caribbean. On the ship, we met the line’s very talented singer Audrey Dukes and found out that she and Heidi are fellow alumnae of Azusa Pacific University, a small but esteemed private Christian college in California. So, we got to talking to her to understand how she ended up performing on the Star.
For only being 29, Audrey has already seen and done a lot in entertainment. Coming from a musical family, she got her associates degree at Citrus College, where she performed with the renowned Citrus Singers, traveling with the group as far as Sweden and Denmark. Then after praying about it, she ended up going to APU for her bachelors in theater arts after switching from music exclusively.
It was when she later left for New York City that she started on the path towards Viking. Audrey says, “That’s how I got this job. I went to a school, a conservatory called the New York Film Academy, and they're phenomenal.” There she learned more about film and voiceover and even performed in a movie musical that is now on her reel and making the rounds at film festivals.
Following the completion of the conservatory program, she went on to audition for hundreds of opportunities including ones with Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. She even got called back for the role of Sherrie Christian in NCL’s “Rock of Ages,” but it was the chance to work with Viking and Mertz Productions that ultimately came together.
The Orlando, Florida-based production company is responsible for all the shows onboard, from originals to cabarets, and Audrey exclaims, “They’re amazing. They’re the sweetest team. They care a lot about artists and not just about product, but their caring for artists makes a great product. So, it’s really cool. We all feel like we get to grow a lot. We feel like a family.”
After first auditioning in April 2016, she landed a nine month contract, her first in the cruise industry, that initially consisted of several weeks of shoreside rehearsals and then a two week period of onboard installation. Now she’s performing in several shows as Female 1. “So, I sing the top high stuff,” she explains. In total, there are three female singers and three male singers plus a pair of dancers.
As to her favorite show, Audrey claims, “‘Les Artistes’ has become one of my favorites, but ‘Song and Dance’ is my other favorite, where its the girls and the dancers on the main stage.” She particularly enjoys singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” in that one since country-style pieces, besides Disney princess numbers, speak most to her.
Also, “‘La Peregrina’ is really cool with the [giant LED] screen and everything,” she adds. “Everyone loves that screen. Everyone I’ve talked to is like, ‘this is amazing,’ and it’s cool.” Ultimately, the performers make a show, and Audrey and the rest of the great company are best highlighted when a live band backs them using superior handheld microphones. There’s also room for improvement in regards to the lackluster sound system in the main theater that is actually beaten by the audio quality in the smaller Torshavn nightclub, but Viking entertainment has a good foundation to build from.
For Audrey, though, she’s loving the ride, having the chance to revisit Sweden before crossing over to Canada and New England. When asked what her favorite port has been, she says, “I love Quebec City,” and now that the Viking Star is in the Caribbean, she’s looking forward to seeing St. Thomas and St. Martin before heading back to the Mediterranean where she can’t wait to see Greece; Venice, Italy and Barcelona, Spain for her first time.
As to her travel style, she says, “I like to meander and explore and take my time and soak in a place, and just enjoy it and move slowly through my time.” After all, seeing so many cool places has been her favorite thing about cruising life, but she also loves her time onboard with fellow crew mates of whom she said, “Everyone’s so sweet, and that’s actually the top down really. The captain is the nicest person.”
On staff, “Everyone’s very grateful and thankful,” she says. “They love it. They choose to renew contracts for years and years and years.” While Audrey is also super appreciative of the opportunity, she plans to return home after her contract to be back with her boyfriend and to be an aunt to her sister-in-law’s newborn, with hopes to secure a bicoastal agent and eventually seek out new roles in either California or New York.
As Audrey says, “I knew that my God has always taken care of me, and I know that He’s never let me down yet.”