BROADWAY TODAY: ANDRÉA BURNS

July 5, 2016

BY: Jim DeBlasi

Drama Desk Award Winner, Andrea Burns is currently appearing as Gloria Fajardo in the Broadway musical ON YOUR FEET. Previously Burns created the role of Daniela in the musical IN THE HEIGHTS. Andrea’s other Broadway credits include THE NANCE, BEAUTY & THE BEAST, THE FULL MONTY & THE RITZ. Her Off Broadway credits include SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD and SATURDAY NIGHT.

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CUE: How did you get started in theatre?

AB: My father was a lover of movie musicals, so as a young kid I would sit with him while he played things like OKLAHOMA!, CAROUSEL or WEST SIDE STORY. So he introduced me to musical theatre. When I was in the 4th or 5th grade there was a kid’s playhouse that put on musicals and I started to go there and my love of theatre was born.

CUE: So was theatre something you always wanted to pursue?

AB: I don’t know if I would say that I always knew I wanted to do this professionally, I just knew I loved it. By the time I was a teenager I did realize that this is what I wanted to do. I always sang and there was something about acting and singing at the same time to tell a story that I found most satisfying.

CUE: was there a particular event that led to your decision?

AB: When I was 11, I went to a summer theatre camp in the Catskills and being surrounded by other kids like me was satisfying. I had always felt a little awkward being a young girl in Miami interested in Broadway. So to see other kids that had that same passion was wonderful.

CUE: What do you consider your first big break?

AB:I did an Off Broadway show, SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, by Jason Robert Brown. We had originally met when we were 12 years old. We both moved to New York and we would run into each other and always supported each other’s work. He was getting his show produced and he asked me to be part of it. He could have chosen other actors who were more established but he chose me. That was my first job in New York and from that a lot of doors opened up to me.

CUE: What’s been the biggest obstacle to overcome?

AB: The biggest obstacle for me is trusting the fact that I know I should be doing this and believing that the right roles will appear if I work hard. There is just so much rejection with not being the one that they choose. You definitely learn to appreciate and realize what a wonderful thing it is when you find that needle in the haystack – getting the right role at the right time in a show that runs.   The biggest challenge is choosing every day to keep wanting this and not give in to the rejection.

CUE: Is it hard to stay motivated?

AB: It is really easy when you are starring on Broadway in a hit musical. When you are not, it is a bit more challenging.

CUE: How did you get involved with ON YOUR FEET?

AB: I was lucky, Jerry Mitchell, the show’s director, reached out to me and asked me to be a part of the developmental reading. I was excited about the musical, although I was a little unsure when he wanted me for Gloria’s mother. I feel very fortunate to have been able to work on creating this role from the beginning – really co-creating this with Gloria and her mom.

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CUE: Is it more difficult to portray a real person versus a factious character?

AB: Yes, because in the end you can take everything you’ve learned in your research, which is useful but the material that comes through you is going to create its own person and it has to be what serves the piece best. So in the end, you create a Gloria Fajardo that is the best version that works for ON YOUR FEET. I try to pay as much homage to her incredible spirit as I can.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

AB: Yes, it is the flashback scene where she goes back to Havana and you see what might have been. She was a very talented lady in her own right and in the scene, she is performing at a nightclub. You see her as a woman in complete control and it turns out to be one of the most dramatic nights of her life because she realizes she must leave her homeland to protect her family and yet she must go on with the show pretending as if nothing has happened. It feels as though everyone involved collaborated to make that scene a one-act play and I love taking that ride every night.

CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you had expected?

AB: I would say that the difficulty came up front – you have any idea how hard it is to sing Gloria Estefan songs to Gloria Estefan? That was hard – do you pay homage, do you imitate – what do you do with the songs? In the beginning, that was very intimidating. Gloria took me into a rehearsal room early on and said she wanted to sing the songs with me to be sure I got the rhythms. I was nervous but then I needed to take that leap and realize and trust that they picked me for a reason, so I had to go off and just do what I do and it became this beautiful collaborative thing.

CUE: How involved was Gloria in the overall production?

AB: She was extremely involved. Gloria was with us every hour of every day. She was always encouraging and passionate about the project. She and Emilio were there all the time and they are just great collaborators. For the actors, it was great having the opportunity to be able to get into it with them. We were all so lucky that they wanted to be there in the trenches.

CUE: What types of roles attract you?

AB: I like complex people that the writers create, not just 2 dimensional characters. I like characters with authenticity and sometimes in musicals that can be tough. Often times musical can get a bad rap. I have a strong belief in the power of musicals, so I like to be part of a project that has dramatic storytelling with real, human, complex characters.

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CUE: How do you deal with auditions?

AB: You just have to make friends with the fact that sometimes they bother you and sometimes you can just let them go. I think of it as I invite them into the party to present my wares. They either decide they need them or not. I try to make peace with that. I try to remember that it is just such a joy to be able to walk into the room and throw my hat into the ring. To me that is exciting so when it doesn’t work out, it can be a real disappointment. You need to keep in mind that it is a privilege to even be selected to walk into the audition room and get that appointment when so many can’t even get that.

CUE: How have you seen Broadway change over the years?

AB:   It is a very exciting time on Broadway culturally. I am half Latin and half Jewish so I am now what the industry calls “Ethnically Ambiguous.” When I first came to Broadway that was a problem. No one knew what to do with me or how to categorize me. Now everything I bring to the table people are interested in. Broadway is now open to diversity so that everyone doesn’t all look the same. Also the roles for Latinos have changed from just stereotyped roles like drug dealers, domestics or low socio-economic characters to more socially diverse characters.

CUE: Is it harder to get to Broadway or stay on Broadway?

AB: Both. I think staying might be a little harder but not to say getting there is easy. You can bring your skill, talent and drive but if the show is only about a particular subject matter that you don’t fit, you’re not going to be seen. You need to be just what they are looking for. Sometimes just being in the right place can land you your Broadway debut, after that it’s your showmanship and talent and willingness to collaborate that start speaking for you.

CUE: Is Broadway too much the measurement of success?

AB: It can be and that is in no way diminishing Broadway because I love it and am honored every time I get to come back but it doesn’t make me any less of an actor when I’m doing theatre any where else. I’ve had extraordinary experiences on tour or regionally. Broadway is great because you work with the highest budgets and with people who are masters in their field.

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CUE: How do you know it’s time to leave a show?

AB: When you’re on stage and your mind starts drifting so far you forget your lines. When you are in a scene but thinking about your grocery list, it’s time to go. If you are not having a good time, there are so many other people who want your job. If you are not enjoying every minute, then someone else deserves to be there.

CUE: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

AB: Trust what you bring to the party. Trying to turn myself into a blank slate or cut off pieces so that I fit into a particular box is foolhardy. I need to embrace my qualities & know at some point they are exactly what someone needs.

BROADWAY TODAY

June 8, 2016

RACHEL TUCKER

BY: Jim DeBlasi

Before assuming the role of Elphaba in Broadway’s WICKED, Rachel had performed this role on London’s West End. Ms. Tucker’s other credits include THE LAST SHIP, WE WILL ROCK YOU, THE WIZARD OF OZ, MERRY CHRISTMAS BETTY FORD, RENT, THE WHO’S TOMMY, THE FULL MONTY and HAVE A NICE LIFE. Recently Rachel released her debut solo album, THE REASON.

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CUE: When did your interest in theatre start?RT: I come from a very musical family so music was always in our house. My sister first started in theatre and I remember that she took me to a rehearsal for the WIZARD OF OZ in which she way playing Dorothy. I was absolutely amazed that she got to wear costumes and ruby slippers on stage. I was hooked. Eventually my sister gave up theatre and I took over.

CUE: So was this a career path you always wanted to follow?RT: I knew this was what I wanted to do from when I was a very young girl. I was just drawn to it and I was always comfortable on stage. I had a great passion for theatre and just loved being on stage.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led to your decision to pursue this professionally?RT: I think that my Ah Ha moment came at around age 15. I spent the summer doing JOSEPH in what was a very professional production. I learned so much that summer including mastering harmonies and getting along with cast members my own age. I next moved into the older group that Fall and started doing theatre almost full time. I just had to keep doing it and I started getting lead roles and I realized there was nowhere else that I was happier than on the stage.

CUE: What eventually brought you here to New York?RT: I was asked to audition for a new musical, THE LAST SHIP. I had heard about it but hadn’t been involved in any of the early workshops. They held auditions but didn’t find exactly what they were looking for and I was called and asked to come in to audition.

CUE: How did your family respond to your plans to come to New York?RT: They were just beside themselves. They thought that I had to be kidding. The idea that I was going to be on Broadway in a Sting musical was just unbelievable.

CUE: What’s been the biggest obstacle to overcome in pursuing a career?RT: Balancing work and family. I have a 3-year old son and a very supportive husband so I find it a challenge finding the time to rest during the day to be ready for the show, especially with a role like Elphaba, and to have enough time to give my son and husband attention. Balancing being a wife and mother along with an actress is tough. It takes a lot of effort to keep that happy balance.

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CUE: How does performing on Broadway compare with London’s West End?RT: A stage is a stage is a stage and I truly believe that. When the lights come up you can really be on any stage. I came to realize that during THE LAST SHIP. I kept waiting to feel the difference and came to realize that there is no real difference. When you are ready to do your job, you could be anywhere and would be able to perform for 20 or 2,000 people. This is your job, it’s what you do. So there is no great variation between Broadway and the West End, although the audiences are slightly different. I find Broadway audiences to be a bit more vocal.

CUE: How did you first get involved with WICKED?RT: I auditioned for the role from when it originally came to London and was lucky the third time around. I then played the role for almost 3 years in London. Then I worked with Joe Montello on THE LAST SHIP and afterwards he asked me to come over to NY to play the role.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?RT: I love it when Elphaba discovers that she is the one with the power and not the Wizard. It is her turning moment and I just love it.

CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you anticipated?RT: Yes, all of Act II. The stakes get higher and higher as the show progresses. It takes a lot to push through it in order to keep the momentum going to the end.

CUE: Is the Broadway production much different than the show in London?RT: No not really. It is a little different in terms of the stage but overall the show is very much the same.

CUE: How difficult is it getting in and out of the makeup?RT: Basically it takes me about 25 minutes to get into makeup and only about 10 minutes to get it off. It really isn’t as terrible as people may suspect.

CUE: The show has been running for years with   many actresses playing this role – how do you make it your own?RT: I start with what is on the page and try to be as honest as I can. I re-visit the script every couple of weeks to really keep true to what the words are saying and I try to bring as much of Rachel to Elphaba as I possibly can. The producers encourage each actress to put her own stamp on the role and to just look for honesty. If you do something really different but it reads honest, they’ll love it. I’ve brought many things from what I did in London and it was all well received.

CUE: How do you deal with auditions, do they bother you?RT: I like auditions. I recently had an audition that may have been the worst audition of my life. I just had to let it go and I know that I just wasn’t prepared enough. I didn’t put enough time in to prepare, so it was my bad. What I find here on Broadway is that auditions are far more businesslike.

CUE: Does rejection get easier to deal with over time?RT: I always try to not take it personally but that’s hard because your putting yourself out there to be judged and to have people decide if they like you or not. I always try to remind myself that I just wasn’t right for the part or I just wasn’t what they were looking for – that helps to keep it from feeling personal.

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CUE: What are your thoughts on reviews and reviewers and do they still influence the public?RT: I think massively. I’m not a big review person, I generally don’t read them. I think because you are in a show, it is very hard to believe what other people say about it, especially if it is critical. Doing a show, you want to believe it’s good, so it is difficult to put that aside and accept how other people view it. I do think it is important to have them and yes they do influence the public but everyone needs to keep in mind that no matter how well educated the reviewer, they are still one person’s opinion.

CUE: How do you know it’s time to leave a show?RT: I think you just know when you’ve had enough. My tolerance for repetitiveness is high so I don’t get bored easily. For me it takes a good deal of time to reach a point where I feel I’m done.

CUE: Is Broadway too much the measurement of success?

RT: When you work on Broadway you are working with the best, so the standards are much higher and everyone strives to work with that level of talent. It is perceived as the crème de la crème so everyone wants that. Broadway makes you feel that you are surrounded by the people who are considered the masters in their field. So it creates a sense of accomplishment.

CUE: What’s been the best career advice you’ve been given?

RT: Do what you do and concentrate on what you are doing at that moment. Do what you’re doing to the best of your ability and don’t split yourself in two. Focus on one thing at a time. Most women are multi-taskers, I’m not!

BROADWAY TODAY

April 21, 2016

Jeremy Hays

BY: Jim DeBlasi

 

Jeremy is currently appearing as Raoul in the Broadway musical THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Mr. Hays made his Broadway debut in the 1st revival of LES MISERABLES and went on to originate the role of Enjolras for the 25th Anniversary production at Paper Mill Playhouse and the subsequent National tour. Regional starring roles include HAIR, CAMELOT, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, OKLAHOMA! and WEST SIDE STORY. Jeremy founded the non-profit, non-partisan organization, BROADWAY VOTES, which promotes voter registration and political involvement in the Broadway community.

CUE: How did you get started in theatre?

JH: I started doing plays in high school, I began with Shakespeare plays and had an amazing drama teacher who had a passion for Shakespeare and passed that interest on to the students. I took a major interest and shifted my focus from athletics to theatre. I also had a great choir teacher who taught me to sing – it was my first experience with music. If it weren’t for him, I would never had gone on to music school. I studied music at OCU and then I moved to NY and have been here about 12 years.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led to your decision to pursue theatre professionally?

JH: I stutter and in high school doing plays really changed my life. At 17 years of age, when I was able to speak clearly on stage with confidence – that changed me forever whether I knew it then or not. So from that moment on, I knew I would in some way be involved with the arts. Also moving to NY and getting my first job was a great incentive. You come to the City and there is just so much rejection that you don’t foresee, so I think until you get that 1st job there is always the possibility of doing something else.

CUE: Does the rejection get easier over time?

JH: Yes and no. I think that your baseline coping skills for rejection get higher. The smaller rejections, you get to take with a grain of salt but any time you go in for something you really want and have worked really hard for and it doesn’t work out – that is always the hardest. I can’t recall who, but someone said, “ A painter paints; a writer writes but an actor relies on other people to create art.” For auditions, you get emotionally wrapped up in the opportunity because the opportunity is your art and when that’s taken away, it’s hard.

CUE: What was your family’s reaction?

JH: When they saw me in college work hard and do well, they were quite supportive. But up till the day I got on the plane to move to NY my dad would say to me, “Son, are you sure you don’t want to go to grad school?” But they let me make my own decisions and I’m very thankful for that.

CUE: What do you consider your 1st big break?

JH: I moved from Oklahoma to NY for the opportunities but as far as NY itself, I hated it when I first got here. It was very different and the 1st few months were hard. Shortly after I got here I had the opportunity to do CATS on the road and I jumped at the chance. When I think back, I often wonder if I didn’t get that job would I have stayed in NY. Every job can be a big break because there is some point in your life where you need the work whether for the money or the opportunity. For me LES MIZ turned out to be a career long exercise & one long, big break.

CUE: What’s been the biggest hurdle to overcome?

JH: I think that it is self-doubt. I think for every actor that’s the biggest enemy. As critical as other people might be, I suspect that we are more critical of ourselves. In an effort to be our best we can beat ourselves up and there’s a point where that can be helpful and a point where it can get in our way. I think every actor struggles with finding that balance. We have to be able to know that it’s okay to not always be 100 percent perfect.

CUE: What do you think are actors’ biggest misconceptions about Broadway?

JH: That everything stops there. If you ask anyone, whether on Broadway or graduating from college or just moving to New York, what you want as an artist never ends – you keep striving for more. You want a life-long career. Look at actors from the 70s and 80s who are still going strong because they are still looking for more. You always look for what is next because it is hard to sit still. I don’t think that there is never one achievement that makes you feel like you’ve totally arrived.

CUE: How did you get involved with PHANTOM?

JH: I had auditioned for the show at various points in my career and it just never seemed to be the right time. At one point I returned from the road doing LES MIZ and auditioned for the show. I didn’t get it but the creative team was very generous to me and kept me in the loop and eventually the timing worked out and I got the job. In the 12-13 years I’ve been in NY I’ve probably auditioned for the show 20 times.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

JH: Toward the end of the show in the Phantom’s lair, Raoul is in a noose and just the tips of his toes are touching the floor and it is such an iconic moment with Raoul trying to save Christine. And always at that moment I think of all the actors who have come before me and stood in that very spot. It is very humbling, invigorating and an honor.

CUE: Any aspect more difficult than you thought?

JH: Yes. Every time I do a show in NY and do an 8 times a week run, I’m never quite prepared for how it feels at the end of the week. The week is amazing but by Sunday – or my day off – I can’t drag myself out of bed. No matter how many times I do the 8 shows a week run, it surprises me how much it kicks my ass. It is a good feeling but exhausting.

CUE: PHANTOM has been running for 28 years & many actors have played Raoul, how do you make it your own?

JH: It all starts with the creative environment that is established in the show and luckily our creative team is looking to maintain the show. They are eager to re-create the characters around each new actor. That’s what makes the show alive after 28 years. You may wear the same costumes, and follow the same blocking but you are free to create your character to ensure a constant sense of newness. I was truthfully a little surprised by that. No show has ever run this long, it is a social experiment for everyone. It was freeing as an actor to have the room to see what I can bring to the role.

 

 

CUE: How have you seen Broadway change over the years?

JH: I think Broadway has become more technical. When I take people for backstage tours of our shows I point out equipment that is still completely analog and let them know that if this was a new show it would be a $100,000 computerized system. Audiences have come to expect that new technology to find its way into the shows. Like we expect a new IPhone every year – we want to see the newest and latest technology incorporated into a Broadway show. But no matter how you tell the story, the job is to tell the story and in that way Broadway hasn’t changed.

CUE: How do you deal with auditions?

JH: I hate auditions. Anyone who doesn’t is lying! They are a necessary evil of the business. You are creating this atmosphere and a mood with an energy that is supposed to be representative of some real event. But onstage during performance you have lights and costumes and sound to help establish the scene but at the audition it is just you in street clothes under fluorescent lights in front of tired people who have seen that scene a 100 times. Auditions are difficult. You just need to find your place and go in and give it your all and just do your best.

CUE: What type of roles attracts you?

JH: I’m attracted to the complex, dark villainous characters. The great thing about musical theatre is that when these parts pop up, they are usually amazing. Characters are usually well written but unfortunately those roles are not always around.

CUE: Do you think that Broadway is too much the measurement of success?

JH: It used to be. I think in the Broadway community now we are starting to understand that there are just so many ways to reach an audience. You can be a YouTube star, make your own web series, or countless other things that takes the pressure off. There are just so many more opportunities today. But that said, Broadway can still be looked at as the great validator that many actors have to overcome. Technology has equalized the playing field but Broadway will always be the dream.

CUE: How do you know when it’s time to leave a show?

JH: It can be whenever you as an actor decide that you have stopped moving forward. When you do a show every night, when you each a point where you feel that you are not growing as an artist, then it’s time. After all, it doesn’t do anyone any favors if any part of the show becomes stagnant. It can be a hard decision because you are deciding to leave your dream.

CUE: What has been the best career advice you’ve been given?

JH: I can’t remember who exactly told it to me but they said, “know when to listen to other people but always listen to yourself.” In this business, you get a lot of advice but in your heart of hearts, only you can tell what is right and best for you. Sometimes it is good to take advice. But sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.

BROADWAY TODAY: GAREN SCRIBNER

December 2, 2015

BY: Jim DeBlasi

 

A former soloist with the San Francisco Ballet, Garen is pleased to be appearing as Jerry in the Broadway production of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS.

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CUE: How did you first get started with dance?

GS: I started dancing because my brother, who is four years older, was taking ballet classes. I tried but it really didn’t stick so I stopped and I moved into soccer, basketball and baseball while my brother kept dancing. I also got into ice skating for fun, started taking lessons at about 8 or 9 years of age and then started competing. The process became very intense with lessons in the early morning and after school practices. It really was too much so I gave up skating. When I was about 12 I went with my parents to see my brother in a recital and it made me want to start dancing again. My parents had always wanted me to return to dancing so I tried different forms but really excelled in ballet. I was given a scholarship to the North Carolina School of the Arts and at the age of 17, I was offered a job with the San Francisco Ballet.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led you to pursue dancing professionally?

GS: I grew up in DC and we were close to the Kennedy Center. My parents took me to shows there and I saw all these ballet companies but what really impacted me was seeing the dancers at the stage door. I couldn’t help but wonder what there lives were like – the traveling and performing. I remember thinking that is what I wanted to do – be one of those people and live that interesting life. I was taken by the allure and mystery of the art form and the creatures it creates.

CUE: Was there anything in particular that led you from dance to theatre?

GS: Again my brother had been involved in theatre in New York for 13-14 years – he is a stage manager and producer having been involved with about 10 Broadway shows. Every time I was in New York I would go to see the show he was connected with. And I always loved musical theatre. I thought how amazing it would be to do it but I had no idea how to. I had no real training but at about 26 I decided to come to New York and try my hand at musical theatre. I started with voice lessons and classes. I wasn’t really sure I could sing although one time the ballet was doing WEST SIDE STORY and everyone in the company auditioned and I was cast as both Tony and Riff. So I got to sing on stage and felt the bug at that time. It was after leaving the company that I received a call about AN AMERICAN IN PARIS which is what transitioned me in the New York scene.

CUE: What were your expectations about Broadway?

GS: I knew it would be a lot of work but I also recognized that this was a really special opportunity for me to be on a Broadway stage and to be able to perform with an incredible group of people. I get to stand on the shoulders of all those who came before me. But even with my expectation about the degree of work that goes into a show, I was surprised at what it really took. You look at someone performing a lead in a Broadway musical and they make it look so easy. You think, I can do that and then you find out just how much effort and work really goes into this. I hadn’t realized what it is like to have a lead and carry a show and take 1500 people each night on a three hour journey.

CUE: How does performing on Broadway compare to performing in ballet?

GS: What is great about AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, aside from it being a great transition to musical theatre, is that it’s half ballet and half traditional musical theatre. In some ways I didn’t know or wasn’t familiar with the language of theatre, now I am learning. In this show the ballet is woven into the book scenes and the songs. It is a great mixture of the two disciplines and it is masterfully done.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

GS: I would have to say it changes every day. But one of my favorite moments is at the beginning during the ballet when I appear – there is just so much happening at that time and so much dramatic tension and it all culminates in that one moment of calm when I’ve done most of the work, especially the material that is outside of my comfort level (the acting and singing). At that moment, I can stand on stage and I know I am there to dance and that is a very comforting feeling. With greater responsibility in this show, it makes the dancing more of a calming, soothing aspect.

CUE: Any mishaps during a performance that you care to share?

GS: I was doing Jerry in Paris during the out of town tryouts and I’m not really used to having a mic on, especially controlled by someone mixing the show who determines when it is on based on music and timing and lighting. I think it was my third performance and I was changing my shoes on stage right. In this particular theatre there was about a 20 foot span from where I was to entering the stage. I looked up at one point and saw Jill Paice in a scene with me, or rather where I should have been at that exact moment. I think it was only about 5 seconds but it felt like an eternity so I stood and ran on stage but not before I murmured “shit” under my breath. Unfortunately my mic was hot and the entire theatre heard. I got a lot of flack for that.

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CUE: What’s been the biggest obstacle to overcome in pursuing a career?

GS: I think it has to do with confidence. I find myself continually finding new things to gain confidence. I was very nervous when I started with the ballet company. I would go over every bit of choreography and it didn’t help reduce my fears, it only helped when I came to realize that I put the work in and that I was ready. I began to understand that you need to show up to performance and remember that you are prepared and you have what it takes. When I trusted in that my performance elevated.

CUE: Is there more or less competition in the world of ballet versus theatre?

GS: Ballet is tough. It is a bit more outspoken. In the San Francisco company there were 75 dancers and 4 different ranks and each ranged in age from 15- 40. When a ballet is announced, everyone wants the first part. In musical theatre there is a clearer sense of what each actor is right for and what you are not right for. You understand it is not personal it is more about type. I have also found that in theatre, people are much more supportive toward one another. It is a much more nurturing environment.

CUE: Are reviews a big issue in ballet?

GS: I think with Broadway there is a much bigger spotlight because there are so many more performances and a greater number of followers for theatre. In ballet there is a following but it is much smaller. Because of the scope of theatre reviews are given more attention and more credibility. Theatre also gets the public more involved through chats and blogs which is far less evident in ballet.

CUE: What’s been the best career advice you’ve been given?

GS: While I was in the San Francisco Ballet I continued to pursue my degree because I felt it was important to have something to fall back on, since at any given time I could get injured and never dance again. I was in a class and having trouble writing a paper and I spoke to a friend and I said that I thought I was having a breakdown because I couldn’t focus. She told me that I wasn’t having a breakdown but rather a breakthrough. So I remember that whenever I am frustrated and want to give up. I remind myself at that moment it is not about running away but it is the moment to look at why I am feeling the way I am and feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I need to understand the reason and deal with that. I analyze what is happening and I come through it with a greater understanding of how to do better.

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BROADWAY TODAY: Montego Glover

August 31, 2015

BY: Jim DeBlasi

 

Montego portrayed the role of Annie Shepard in the recent Broadway Musical, IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU. Ms. Glover is a Tony & Drama League Award nominee and Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award-winner for her portrayal of Felicia Farrell in MEMPHIS. Montego also appeared in The COLOR PURPLE on Broadway. Her other credits include THE ROYALE, AIDA and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. On TV, Ms. Glover appeared on THE FOLLOWING, BLACK BOX, HOSTAGES, SMASH and THE GOOD WIFE.

Photo Credit: http://BrentDundore.com

CUE: How did you get started in theatre?

MG: When I was about twelve, I began studying acting in my hometown of Tennessee. I just fell in love with theatre as a discipline and continued acting ever since.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led to the decision to pursue this professionally?
MG: I remember being part of an acting class and we were presenting one of our plays. There was about 10-15 students and we all did the work – we built the sets, did the costume design and makeup – it was very inclusive. We were taking bows, we were twelve years old and all holding hands and I recall looking out at the audience filled with family, friends and faculty and on the upsweep of the bow, I thought, “I am so happy. This is what I want to do.”

CUE: So what steps did you take to follow that path?

MG: It began by first recognizing that acting was a career. I didn’t understand too early on that musical theatre existed but when I realized I had a love for movement, music and dance and that I can pursue all three disciplines in one career, I knew that I would be totally fulfilled. So it was discovering acting as a profession and discovering I can have everything in one profession that set me on my path.

CUE: What was your family’s reaction?

MG: My mother was all for it. She told me to go for it but my dad was like, ”What?” He has three daughters and I’m the eldest and I am sure in his mind’s eye he saw me tap dancing on the street trying to make money. When I got to Florida State University, I got my first musical called, THE GOLDEN APPLE. As a freshman I had an ensemble part. I was like the 50th girl from the left. I had no spoken lines and half a song line but I was just so excited. My father came to see the show and at intermission, I was told afterwards, several of the faculty went up to my father and said the most lovely things about me. At the end of the show I think he saw how happy I was and that made him realize how important this was to me and he was on board.

CUE: What’s been the biggest obstacle to face?

MG: Learning to be patient. I am good with planning and setting goals and working day to day but I set such high standards for myself. I always look to push for things and get them right away.

CUE: Do you think you can actually plan a career?

MG: I do think you plan a career and when you plan properly, things happen. It’s being in the right place at the right time. When opportunity meets preparation – that is what it really comes down to. You can fall into something but you really don’t get there without some degree of planning.

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CUE: What do you consider your first big break?

MG: For me my big break has three components. The first would be my first professional job in New York, which was PIRATES OF PENZANCE at the South Street Seaport. I played Mabel on the deck of a ship. I went to school with a member of the company and after I was in New York for about 2 weeks he called and said they lost their Mabel and he recommended me. I went in and just got the job. The second part would be getting my first Broadway show – something you never forget – it was THE COLOR PURPLE. I started as a standby and then eventually took over the roles I was covering. The third part and probably the jewel in my crown was opening in MEMPHIS on Broadway and having the opportunity to create a role on Broadway. I opened the show and closed it so I had the sense of complete fulfillment.

CUE: How did you get involved with IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU?

MG: I was working on a wonderful new play at the Old Globe last fall called THE ROYALE and while running, IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU came across my desk. At the time I was committed to THE ROYALES so I wasn’t able to be seen for the show but I thought the script was charming and I love David Hyde Pierce. But my hands were tied. So with a heavy heart I told them I wasn’t available but like you always do, you tell them if they are still looking for someone in 3 weeks to let me know. When I did get back, my agent called and said that in fact they were still looking. So I went in, I met David Hyde Pierce, who was just charming from the minute the door opened. I read and sang and had to come back the following day to do it all over again and then that was it.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

MG: That would have to be the beginning of the duet I sang with Nick Spangler – LOVE YOU TILL THE DAY. The song is our wedding toast and it was wonderfully inappropriate. For some reason the audiences realized this from the moment the music started and it was just so much fun to perform.

CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you anticipated?

MG: Not really and I don’t mean because it was an easy show but rather because I felt very prepared to do the work that we were doing. Comedy is hard it has a definite meter and requires a delicate handling. The rehearsal process and getting the show on its feet in the rehearsal room is a tremendous undertaking. There is tremendous amount of writing and re-writing and for a musical it not only involves the script being re-tooled but the music as well. So feeling that I was well prepared with the music, the movement and the text as we went through the rehearsals and into previews was a great deal of work but nothing I hadn’t done.

CUE: Any funny mishaps during the run?

MG: During one of the previews – the set is designed with a number of doors that come in and out all the time One night the automatic function of the doors that allows all of them to move as a unit stopped working during the show. Now since there is no intermission there was no sense of just let’s get through the act and then have it fixed. So all 13 of us had to re-block and re-tool the production on the fly amidst this massive malfunctioning door system. And the audience was none the wiser.

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CUE: How do you deal with auditions?

MG: My views on auditions is first off that they are part of my job so it has to be handled. Secondly, auditioning is a skill set and you can either sharpen your skill set or not. Auditions are also the only way to get constant exercise in your field of work aside from working itself. I like auditioning because that’s how you get the work. Auditions keep me sharp and allow me more control over my career.

CUE: What do you think are actor’s biggest misconceptions about Broadway?

MG: I would say the biggest misconception is that getting to Broadway is impossible and that there is no normal sensibility about it. People suspect there is no sense of community. Sometimes actors think that Broadway is where you go to become this celestial being. At the end of the day, Broadway is a community of actors that love what they do.

CUE: Do you suspect that it is harder to get to Broadway or to stay on Broadway?

MG: I think that it is harder to stay on Broadway. Once you get there you’ve done the work on yourself. Being or getting to Broadway is a natural progression to the kind of work you are doing. Some people get to Broadway where they go from being a quiet little church mouse to a big Rock Star in one show and they are simply not necessarily prepared for that. Staying there can be difficult.

CUE: What are your thoughts on reviews and reviewers and do they still influence the public?

MG: I think reviews are a necessary element for our work and it is just like any business where employees get reviewed on their work – theatre is no different. Of course, in this business there is a part that is more subjective. I think that ultimately reviews don’t influence – they are opinions and you are allowed to take that opinion, hold it, look upon it and then put it down and make your own decision.

CUE: How do you know when it is time to move on?

MG: You know that it is time when you can’t see yourself being there. We perform 8 shows a week on Broadway and if the majority of the time you can’t see yourself at the theatre, then it’s time to go. Also if you are the head of the company and you no longer feel you are able to positively lead, then it is time to go.

CUE: Isn’t it tough to balance between artistic fulfillment and financial stability when making that decision?

MG: That is true. Part of the preparation is being good with your money so you can afford yourself the ability to make artistic decisions in the long run.

CUE: What’s been your best career advice?

MG: I was asked to give the commencement speech at my university a couple of years ago. I give advice that over the years I have tried and tested and it is what I call the starter kit. Fill your mind and body with good and nutritious food. Mind your money. Keep your word. Tell the truth and remember that you are unique and there is no one like you and you are completely replaceable.

CUE With IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU closing – what’s next?

MG: I’m excited to say that I will be starring as Fantine in Les Miserable on Broadway. My opening night along with the new JVJ, Alfie Boe, is on September 1st. It’s a role I’ve always wanted to play and I’m thrilled to be a part of this show. I’ll be in the role until February and then have a project for the spring that I will be working on but we have to keep that one secret for now.

BROADWAY TODAY: JUDY MCLANE

May 1, 2015
BY: Jim DeBlasi

Judy is currently starring as Donna Sheridan in the Broadway musical MAMMA MIA!. Judy previously performed the role of Tanya in the show for 7 years. Most recently she starred as Diana in NEXT TO NORMAL at the Pioneer Theater. Ms. McLane has appeared on Broadway in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, ASPECTS OF LOVE and CHESS. Her national and international tours include THE BAKER’S WIFE, INTO THE WOODS, JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, BIG & SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM.

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CUE: How did you get started in theatre?

JML: I was a classical music major in school and then in my junior year I realized I had a different kind of voice, which I hadn’t explored. I started to make the move over to musical theatre. I did some plays in high school but growing up my main focus was on singing.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led to the decision to pursue this career path?

JML: I always knew this is what I would be doing. I sang since I was a young girl and as far as I can remember I just always assumed that’s what I would be doing. It wasn’t really a decision, it was just what I did.

CUE: What was your family’s reaction?

JML: My dad was a bit hesitant, especially when I said I was moving to NY. I don’t think they expected that right after college. So he had his reservations but they were both supportive in every way. I grew up in Pennsylvania and in the area where I lived, they still come by the busloads to see my shows.

CUE: What do you consider your first big break?

JML: I think it was when I went to an audition for what turned out to be my first Broadway show – CHESS. I got that job from an open call and I believe that is what got me started. It was a turning point.

CUE: What’s been the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing a career?

JML: I think that the lifestyle is so different for an actor. It can be tough – you miss family functions and it forces you to make a lot of sacrifices. This is an amazing career but that aspect can be difficult. I also think the biggest obstacle is just breaking into the business. I went to college for music, so I didn’t start out here with any connections or contacts the way so many kids do today. I knew no one – there were no showcases, no agents – it was very different when I started. I had to hit the pavement and the hurdle was getting people to know who I was.

CUE: What is the toughest part about performing on Broadway?

JML: The stamina required, especially with a 5-show weekend. You need to constantly take care of yourself: eat right, get plenty of rest and be conscious all day long of the decisions and choices you make and how they might affect your performance that night. The schedule for me is the hardest part. Over time you learn how to deal and work with it.

CUE: How did you get involved with MAMMIA MIA!?

JML: I initially auditioned for Donna but at the callback they had already cast the role so they asked me to read for Tanya. I did and the next day I was cast in that part, which I did for over 7 years. They then asked me to sing for Donna, which I did and they moved me into that role.

Mamma Mia NY

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

JML: I think when I am performing with the other two women in the bedroom scene and we are sing DANCING QUEEN – it is just so much fun and there is just so much interaction between us. It is just one of my favorite moments in the show.

CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you anticipated?

JML: It would be that same bedroom scene. When I had watched the show that scene just looked like so much fun but when you are actually performing it, it is quite a workout. We are high belting at the top of our lungs. Physically it is the most difficult scene in the show for me – just to keep up that energy level.

CUE: Are you aware of the audience?

JML: For this show you can’t help but be aware – they become part of the show. In general when you are in a comedy you need to be aware in order to hold for laughs or applause. There is a fine balance in being conscious of them yet staying focused on being in the scene so that your performance is honest and truthful. The audience becomes another character, which then doesn’t take you out of what’s happening on stage. I don’t think that audiences are aware of how their participation influences the actors – we feed off their reactions and their energy.

CUE: What’s been your most embarrassing mishap?

JML: There have been so many. I did MAN OF LA MANCHA at Paper Mill and during the rape scene I wore a tear-away skirt. During the invited dress it just wouldn’t work. He kept tugging and tugging and the next thing I know, everything came off and I was standing on stage in a g-sting. Audiences got to see more of me than they ever expected.

CUE: What types of roles attract you?

JML: When I first consider a role, I look at how the part is similar to me and what the differences are. Oftentimes I get intrigued when there is a challenge. I like parts that are different from who I am. It also depends on what the journey for the character is and if they have an interesting arc throughout the play – where they start and where they end up.

CUE: How do you deal with auditions?

JML: They used to bother me crazily and I would be really hard on myself and beat myself up. But as you get older you learn more about the business and come to realize it is not necessarily because of anything you did or didn’t do in that room. I had an audition once for Andrew Lloyd Webber and afterwards I thought I did a really good job but then they just dismissed me. I took that to mean that I must have been terrible. The truth was, it was at the end of the day and they were in a hurry and in fact, they loved me and knew right away that they wanted me back. I remember thinking you really never know what is going on behind that table.

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CUE: What are your thoughts on reviewers and do they still influence the public?

JML: I think they can and certain reviewers do have a greater influence on the public. But also things have changed so much in recent years. There are ways now to counter any negative reviews. I believe that shows can still run even without a good New York Times review. When I read reviews, I always remind myself that I have to take the good with the bad. I keep in mind that not everyone will love or hate what I do. I think overall reviews have less of an impact in the face of social media.

CUE: Do you think that Broadway is too much the measurement of success for an actor?

JML: It can be. Young people come to NY with the idea of having to get to Broadway. I think that sometimes actors rush to obtain that objective. Broadway is a great goal to have but we must remember that there is amazing theatre being done Off Broadway and regionally. If we give people a real experience and move them, then we are doing our job no matter where we are performing.

CUE: Do you think that it is harder to get to Broadway or to stay on Broadway?

JML: I would have to say that it is harder to get to Broadway. The hardest part for an actor starting out is establishing himself and making the right connections and contacts. It also depends on what shows are running on Broadway in that given season. It could be just a case of no shows being right for in that particular season. I believe that once you start to get to be known by people in the industry, you realize it is much more like a family and that makes it easier to land other jobs.

CUE: Who has had the biggest influence on you and your career?

JML: There have been so many people. In regard to influencing my singing, I would say Maria Callas and Karen Carpenter as well as my voice teacher, Bill Schuman. But I couldn’t leave out my parents, due to their love and support, I was able to follow my bliss.

CUE: What’s been the best career advice you have been given?

JML: That’s easy, never fight with your costume in a quick change because the costume always wins. I would say the best advice is what people hear over and over – just be yourself. Don’t try to be the best someone else but rather be the best possible you.

Mamma Mia NY

BROADWAY TODAY

April 3, 2015

ELIZABETH STANLEY

BY: Jim DeBlasi

 

Elizabeth Stanley is currently appearing in the Broadway musical, ON THE TOWN in the role of Claire De Loone. Stanley’s previous Broadway credits include Dyanne in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, Allison in CRY-BABY and April in the revival of COMPANY. She has also appeared as Kira in the First National Tour of XANADU. Elizabeth’s TV credits include BLACK BOX, THINK TANK, MADE IN JERSEY, THE CHAPPELLE SHOW and PBS GREAT PERFORMANCES: COMPANY.

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CUE: How did you get started in theatre?

ES: I guess I started with my interest in school doing skits and plays. We moved when I was about 10 and there was a community theatre about 30 miles away that had a children’s program. My parent’s recognized my interest and they drove me back and forth.

CUE: Did you find community theatre helpful?

ES: It was very helpful. I went to a tiny school in Illinois that was not near any big city, so community theatre was my only outlet. The theatre not only allowed me to see theatre but to actually perform theatre. Even my school did not have a big theatre program so community theatre was a great resource for me.

CUE: Is theatre something you knew you always wanted to do?

ES: Yes and no. I really loved theatre but because I was in a small place, I didn’t know of any professional artists so it was a dream for me but I don’t think I realized it could be a reality until I got to college where I majored in voice. I anticipated being a teacher because somehow that seemed more plausible to me. It was during college that I met others who had this dream of acting and who were moving to NY and that made me start to think I could do this as well.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led to your decision to pursue this professionally?

ES: It really wasn’t one event. In college I participated in the choir and they performed Contemporary Songbook and American Songbook material as well as showtunes – I think being part of that choir and meeting the people in it had a big influence on me. Also my teachers in college were very encouraging. So it wasn’t a single event but mainly the time I spent in college that directed me.

CUE: What do you consider your first big break?

ES: I would say it was being cast and doing COMPANY which was my Broadway debut in 2006. I lived in the City prior to that and got my Equity card and an agent and was doing a fair amount of regional work. COMPANY gave me the opportunity to stay and work in New York.

CUE: What’s been the biggest obstacle to overcome?

ES: I would say the down time, which is true for so many artists. You need to figure out a way to stay inspired and to remain positive as well as a method to make money. It can be a great challenge but it does make you truly appreciate the good times and allows you to enjoy those times when you do have a show.

CUE: Your stage experience has enabled you to play a musical instrument and roller skate on stage, what was that like?

ES: They were both challenging. Mentally, the instrument playing in COMPANY was trickier because you needed to be focused and tough because you were accompanying your peers and if you didn’t have your music ready, you were affecting their performance. In XANADU, the roller-skating was difficult because I wasn’t a roller skater before the show. So physically that took a major toll on me.

CUE: For COMPANY what was the rehearsal like between being a musician and an actor?

ES: It was fascinating. You had to learn quickly. We started with the instruments on the first day of rehearsal. That way the instruments became a part of the action right from the start and the integration into the show felt more natural. The first week was intense because we were already on our feet and moving. We would be holding the instruments and kicking our scores around the floor. Due to the nature of the show we had two rehearsal rooms running simultaneously – one with music rehearsal with the MD and the other dealing with scene work.

CUE: How’d you get involved with ON THE TOWN?

ES: I got a call from my agents who asked if I was interested. The show initially was starting in the Berkshires and I thought it would be great to spend the summer outside of NY. Then the show was slated to come to New York – it was a dream come true.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

ES: I think it really keeps changing. Right now I love, SOME OTHER TIME – I just love the simplicity of it. I am so moved by that music and it is very special to so many people. And to me it is a very personal song that speaks to me. It is very touching.

CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you anticipated?

ES: There are times when I feel like an old lady doing this show. There are those days when my body is just so sore and I don’t even do a lot of dancing in the show. But the physicality of my character is physically tiring. My character is quirky and zany and I wanted her to be uninhibited so what I’ve developed after 8 shows a week in heels, takes its toll.

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CUE: Any special routines for you before a show?

ES: For this show, I am using a different part of my voice. For a while I was performing material that was brassier and this part takes me back to my soprano. It has been fun to get that part of my voice back in shape. I also like to do 20 minutes of yoga to warm up and get my body ready before a show.

CUE: What types of roles attract and interest you?

ES: I guess that I am attracted to those characters that have a specific journey through the course of the play. I like characters that have more than one color or level in the play. I also like to play roles that have a human-ness about them as well as a sense of humor.

CUE: How do you deal with auditions?

ES: I’ve not been auditioning for a while because of doing this show so when I get out there again I’ll be nervous. Once you get back into the rhythm of auditioning it gets easier. I do better when I have a large number of auditions to prepare for – that helps you not focus as much or care because you need to get ready to move onto the next audition. But of course, you invest so much in every audition in order to do your best, so it is inevitable that there is a sense of disappointment when you don’t get something.

CUE: What are your thoughts on reviews and reviewers and do they still influence the public?

ES: I think that they do influence the public. Personally I try not to read them because I don’t like to know the exact wording although you do always know if they are good or bad because you can’t help but hear people talking or someone will say something to you. I think they affect the audience because if they are positive, it gives people permission to like the show. If they are bad, then people come in ready to judge the show in a different way.

CUE: Any thoughts on chat rooms and blogs?

ES: I steer very clear of them both. I tend to think that they can be more hurtful than helpful. I constantly hear about nasty comments that are posted. I never go on or look at them, so I really can’t comment.

CUE: Has Broadway been more of a sacrifice than you anticipated?

ES: The truth is what you do is the same no matter where you are doing it. It takes a degree of discipline to work on Broadway but it also depends on the show and the role. For most actors, Broadway is a treat because it means you are working locally and get to stay at home. You are able to see family and friends. I would say that touring is a bigger sacrifice by the mere fact that you are away from home. I believe that every job and every profession has some level of sacrifice associated with it.

On the Town Lyric Theatre (formerly Foxwoods Theatre)

CUE: Is Broadway too much the measurement of success?

ES: I think that it can be but there is such great work being done all across the country but we tend to get overly focused on Broadway. I think it can be unfortunate that our country doesn’t fund the arts a bit better. I also believe that we don’t have the same level of respect for the arts as they do in other countries. As a struggling actor, I know when I tell friends not in the business that I am doing a show that is not on Broadway, you can see where they almost see you as a failure. In that way, Broadway is more esteemed than other types of theatre.

CUE: Do you think that it is harder to get to Broadway or stay on Broadway?

ES: I think that it is harder to get here. In some ways it is like any business where it becomes an issue of who you know. Sometimes it is just plain hard to break in but once you’re there and know people and people have seen your work and know what kind of performer you are – people will want to work with you. You quickly become part of the community, which makes things a little easier.

CUE: How do you know when it is time to leave a show?

ES: If you feel a lack of excitement in any way to tell the story, it is time to at least take a break. It is tough with live theatre when you are doing the same thing every night. You can reach a point where you have found all that you can find but it can be hard to leave because it is your livelihood.

CUE: What’s been the best career advice you received?

ES: Be a good person and be authentic to who you are. Your work ethic and your kindness will always be important in comparison to your talent and ability.

BROADWAY TODAY JUDY KUHN

January 9, 2015
BY: Jim DeBlasi

Before taking on the role of Helen in the Off Broadway production of FUN HOME, Judy appeared in several productions on Broadway including the Roundabout Theatre’s revival of SHE LOVES ME, as well as the American Premiere of CHESS, LES MIZ and RAGS. Other Bway credits include TWO SHAKESPEAREAN ACTORS, KING DAVID, and THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. Some of Judy’s other credits include SYCAMORE TREES, THREE SISTERS, THE HIGHEST YELLOW, PASSION at the Kenney Center and the creation of Betty Schafer in the US Premiere of SUNSET BLVD. Judy also sang the role of POCAHONTAS in both the original film and sequel. Ms. Kuhn has appeared on concert stages around the world and has her own solo CDs available.

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CUE: How did you get your start in theatre?

JK: I think at first I had always resisted it. I did have a fantasy about being an actor but was always hesitant to try my hand at it. A year after I graduated from college I did some summerstock and had a great time. Everyone told me I should go to NY and I realized if I didn’t try then I would never do it. So I moved to NY and did what every other actor does – go to open calls, signed up for auditions and made the rounds and was lucky enough to get some good breaks that started me on a professional road.

CUE: Did you perform locally?

JK: I never did community theatre but I participated in theatre at school and for summer programs. The first time I did any theatre away from home was when I participated in summerstock in New England.

CUE: What do you consider your first big break?

JK: I am not even certain I know what that means – I don’t view things as one big break. To me a career is a series of ups and downs. There really isn’t one big thing that changed my life. I came to NY and got a job that led to another and another and so on. I was in hit shows and not hit shows so I wouldn’t say there was a single break. I consider myself to be very lucky in that I had some really good opportunities. What’s funny is sometimes what seems to be a disappointment morphs into something good. My first role on Broadway was in RAGS and the show closed in 2 days but if it hadn’t closed, I would not of been free to do LES MIZ.

CUE: What’s been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in your career?

JK: I think the hurdles change as times goes by and I like to think of them more as challenges rather than hurdles or obstacles. One challenge for most actors is being thought of as only able to play the last thing you happened to do. For me a challenge has been because I sing well I am thought of as only a musical theatre performer. It is also a challenge as you get older to be able to transition into another category of parts that you can play. And of course, there are the personal challenges that involve finding a balance between your work life and your personal life.

CUE: Is it common to get pigeonholed as a musical theatre vs. straight play performer?

JK: For some yes, it depends on who you are. I was thought of as a musical performer ingénue for a while but have outgrown that. Every actor gets thought of as something – a dramatic actor, comedic actor, character actor – we all get pigeonholed to some extent. For me, I was labeled as mainly a musical theatre person.

CUE: What do you think are actors’ biggest misconceptions about Broadway?

JK: We live nowadays in a reality TV world where people feel that they are going to be discovered and be made a star. That is something that people fantasize about but this business doesn’t work that way. Young actors need to realize that there are ups and downs. As an actor what you are able to do and how you cast constantly changes. It is not like other industries where you keep getting promoted. You also hope that new actors understand that craft is so important and something you need to continuously work on. I keep going to classes and taking voice lessons and try to keep myself in shape. Some people have the idea that once you had some success you can be done learning.

CUE: How have you seen Broadway change over the years?

JK: I think these days that Broadway is too profit driven. Nowadays opening a Broadway show is just about making money and I don’t believe that is how it used to be. Broadway has become much more corporate and more and more the movie companies are getting involved with movie franchises becoming a major source of material. Off Broadway and regional theatres have now become the place where people are trying new things and when those works prove to be successful that is when Broadway producers become interested. I think today it is rare for Broadway to try new and truly original projects.

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CUE: How did you get involved with FUN HOME?

JK:   I was asked about 2 years ago when they did their first full reading of the script – it was still very much in development and my character was barely written. I wasn’t certain where it would go but did know that I wanted to work with this team. From the reading, the show was invited to SUNDANCE and I was asked to go along. So happily I have been involved and able to stick with the project and I am very happy with the way this has turned out.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

JK: There are so many but one of my favorites is to watch the 3 kids sing a song early in the show. All the adults stand on the side off stage right and watch them and we have so much fun. My other favorite moment is my scene at the end with the middle version of my daughter; it is such a well crafted scene and song that I love to do it every night.

CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you anticipated?

JK: This is a very challenging story to tell. The character that I play – well, so much of her story takes place off stage so the challenge has been to be clear in what happened off stage in between my moments on stage so I am aware of what I need to bring with me for my scenes to play real.

CUE: What type of roles attract you?

JK: I don’t like to define myself as an actor, I rather let other people do that. What really matters to me is the writing, I don’t necessarily care what type of character it is. It is the writing that really attracts me and the opportunity to work with really smart and creative people.

CUE: How do you deal with auditions?

JK: I hate them. I never felt I was very good at auditioning only because I am so into process and rehearsal. I had a friend tell me once that she looked at auditions as possibly the only chance to play that role so she goes in and works it and rehearses it as if it were her part. I think I’ve gotten better at shaking off auditions. Actors make themselves so vulnerable when they audition it is hard to be judged knowing that 9 times out of 10 you will be rejected. I had an opportunity years ago to be a reader for a movie audition and it was a learning experience being on that side of the table. I witnessed that everyone – even people you wouldn’t suspect – get nervous, including the people conducting the audition. What was interesting was that after the actors left the room, to hear the conversation and to realize that someone didn’t get the part not because they weren’t good enough but for reasons outside of their control. Sometimes you’re just not right for it.

CUE: Do you ever get to rest on your laurels or is it always looking for the next opportunity?

JK: I barely even notice my laurels. You can’t rest on your past achievements, you have to go and do your show every night and you have to work it and keep your focus on what you are doing in that given performance. I believe that you are only as good as the work you do that particular evening.

CUE: Is there any past role that you played that you wish you had the opportunity to play over?

JK: I got to do PASSION for the second time this year. I first performed it at The Kennedy Center for Sondheim’s Celebration. It was great and I loved working on that part but we only played 15 performances and I felt cheated as though we didn’t have enough time with the piece. So I was very grateful to have another opportunity to explore that piece again. And since so much time passed, I felt I was better able to bring more life experience to the role to enrich my performance.

CUE: Are you aware of the audience when you perform and do they affect your performance?

JK: You have to be aware, they are a character in the play and you are engaged in a conversation with them. You need to take them in and allow them to be part of the show. And every night they are a different character – they never get affected in the same way with the same material. It is always interesting to be aware night after night of how the different audiences respond to the same material.

CUE: What are your thoughts on reviewers and their influence on the public?

JK: With the online world we live in there is a much more diffused power of opinion that becomes available. FUN HOME did some of their best advanced sales before reviews which was attributed to word of mouth. People posting positive opinions on Facebook and blogs can overshadow a bad review. There is more of a democracy of opinion so although reviews have an influence it is not the same as it used to be.

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CUE: How do you know when it’s time to leave a show?

JK: I haven’t done a long run in a while but when it stops being fun or interesting, you should leave. If you are not able to enjoy the work you do, then you’re not able to bring anything new to the production.

CUE: What’s been the best career advice you received?

JK: I don’t think I’ve really gotten career advice but I’ve worked with some great actors and directors who provided great craft advice on how to approach parts and deal with technique. Early on I never thought about career or being strategic – I just did what came along and perhaps that was to my detriment but I did what seemed like it would be fun.

BROADWAY TODAY: JOSHUA HENRY

January 5, 2015
BY: Jim DeBlasi

 

Joshua Henry recently appeared as Flick in the Broadway musical, VIOLET. His past Broadway credits include THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, The Gershwins’ PORGY & BESS, AMERICAN IDIOT, IN THE HEIGHTS, and BRING IT ON. Regionally, Mr. Henry has been seen in VIOLET, THE COTTON CLUB PARADE, THE WIZ and BEING ALIVE.

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CUE: How did you get your start in theatre?

JH: I had a high school teacher and after I did my first production in school of THE MUSIC MAN, she told me that I could actually do this for a living. I wasn’t even sure I knew what she meant. She was confident that I could do singing and dancing as a profession. I then auditioned for the University of Miami and I got in. From the first day of class I knew that she was right and I did want to do this as a profession. During my senior year we had a showcase and I was fortunate enough to get a lot of attention and from there I got my first show, GOSPELL at Paper Mill Playhouse and everything just seemed to take off from there.

CUE: Was there a particular moment or event where you knew this was the path?

JH: I did a workshop before my freshman year at college at a performing arts institute and at that moment it all felt natural to me. I really felt that this was something I was good at so I think at that workshop is when it really hit me and clicked for me.

CUE: What do you consider to be your first big break?

JH: Definitely would be playing Judas at Paper Mill in GODSPELL. It was my first job outside of school and from that gig I can trace every other job that I’ve gotten. I met so many people who have contributed to my future productions including IN THE HEIGHTS.

CUE: What’s been the biggest obstacle to overcome?

JH: I think that would be figuring out what is next. You end up on Broadway, which is a huge goal, but you still want to find something to challenge yourself with and figuring out ways to continue to grow and challenge yourself can be difficult. In this business you can be motivated to take work for the pay check or just to have a gig but sometimes those projects don’t necessarily allow you to grow and stretch. Finding a way to continuously challenge yourself in this business can be so uncertain but that is part of this career path and it is a challenge for me.

CUE: How do you think Broadway has changed over the years?

JH: Thankfully it has gotten more diverse and I have been lucky to be able to be part of shows like THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS or IN THE HEIGHTS. We are at a point were a lot of minority stories are being told on Broadway. And just overall, there are different types of shows appealing to different types of audiences making their way to Broadway. You see shows like THE JANIS JOPLIN music but still find classics like ON THE TOWN, which are playing. I think it is great that you have some daring work running on Broadway as well as some smaller intimate shows like VIOLET along with Broadway still offering the mega musical spectaculars like ALADDIN. I say the biggest change is that now Broadway is making room for all types and styles of shows which ideally will continue to bring in new and more diversified audiences.

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CUE: How did you initially get involved with VIOLET?

JH: During my sophomore year in college I was cast in the first school musical and Michael McCullen, who played the original Flick in VIOLET in 1997, came and was going to be directing me in that role. Years later I got involved in the workshop and then last year we did the City Center Workshop and they trusted me with the role. After that we received the news that we were going to Broadway. It transferred and was picked up by the Roundabout and we went to Broadway.

CUE: Did you have a favorite moment in the show?

JH: That would be my song, “Let It Sing.” It was one of my favorite songs in the show and the style just fit my voice so well. I also believed in the message that it sent out about forging our path and figuring out who we are and not letting your past define who you are.

CUE: Was there any aspect of the show that was more difficult than you anticipated?

JH: There was a moment in the show where my character is dealing with the interest he has for Violet and at a given point he gets really upset and demonstrates this intense rage. That was tough because for me, I don’t live there, I usually never get angry. So in the scene there is a moment of going from hiding my feelings to this explosive anger and it was really tough for me because it was so hard for me to relate to that. It took a long while during the rehearsals in order for me to get comfortable in that scene. It happens in the song “Hard to Say Goodbye” and as an actor it was a real challenging time for me.

CUE: Of all your past shows, any one experience stand apart?

JH: My first big role was Haywood in THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS and I got my first Tony nomination at the age of 26. That validation for me was just incredible. It was a great experience and a show in which I really believed in the story. I was able to perform at the Tony Awards and that was huge for me – my wife and mom were there and it was just great. Another great moment for me was performing with Green Day on The Grammy’s for AMERICAN IDIOT – I never thought a Broadway show could land me on the Grammy stage.

CUE: How do you prepare for a role, what type of research do you do?

JH: For me, I try to gather as much information as I possibly can. For instance, with THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, I spent a lot of time reading up on that particular era – South Carolina right before the Civil Rights Movement. You try to figure out all you can about what was going on. You must explore more than just who you are but you need to know the people around you and what they think and say about you. Even during the rehearsal process you need to constantly learn more and never stop growing. It is an endless process but you never stop learning and never stop expanding your character.

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CUE: How do you deal with auditions – do they bother you or can you let them go?

JH: I am actually one of those people who really loves to audition. For me, I love the challenge and look at it as an opportunity to stretch myself and prove myself in front of other people. The idea of wearing a different hat invigorates me. Afterwards, I am good at letting them go. In musical theatre auditions, you can generally walk out of the room with a good sense of how you did. You know if you hit the note and if you gave them what they wanted. In TV & film auditions, it can be trickier because you can’t always be as certain as to how you did – those can be a bit harder to let go.

CUE: What type of roles interest or attract you ?

JH: I look for roles that are more diverse. I am a big black man and I don’t want to just play the stereotypical roles that people would associate with my type. I enjoy playing roles of people that I admire – parts that have good redeeming qualities. I like the roles that stretch me and make me uncomfortable.

CUE: What are your thoughts on reviews and reviewers and do they still influence the public?

JH: Truthfully I don’t really like them. I guess they are necessary but it still confuses me how one person’s opinion can have such an affect on a show. I don’t really like that reviewers have that kind of power. Personally I don’t have a hard and fast rule – sometimes I read them and sometimes I don’t.

CUE: Is Broadway more of a sacrifice than you had anticipated?

JH: Broadway is definitely about sacrifice. Broadway is grueling – it is 8 shows a week and you need to be constantly thinking about your voice and your body. You need to always pace yourself and be sensitive about your social life outside of the show. I was 22 when I did my first Broadway show and I realized then that I had to make changes and sacrifices if I wanted to keep doing this. Working on Broadway is a job and you make sacrifices to make it happen.

CUE: Do you think that Broadway is too much the measurement of success for actors?

JH: Yes, I do. I think Broadway is a great goal to have. But it is just one place to perform. I don’t think that enough weight is given to great Regional Theatre. If you want Broadway that is great but you need to realize that there are other venues and so many other places to get involved in and work at to grow as an actor. It is unfortunate that these other locations don’t get the same reaction from the industry or provide the same validation.

CUE: What has been the best career advice that you’ve been given so far?

JH: Be the type of person that you would want to work with. It is simple, be nice and friendly, be supportive to your fellow castmates and everyone in the business. Lend a hand and be the kind of person that people enjoy being around. Talent is expected but the kind of person that you are is what will determine or contribute to whether or not people want to work with you over and over.

Broadway Today – Victoria Clark

August 1, 2014

B”way Today – By: Jim DeBlasi

Before originating the role of Marie in Broadway’s CINDERELLA, Victoria’s Broadway credits included LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA for which she received a Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, SISTER ACT, TITANIC, HOW TO SUCCEED, URINETOWN, CABARET, GUYS & DOLLS, A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. Off Broadway, Ms. Clarke’s credits include WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING, A PRAYER FOR MY ENEMY, THE MARRIAGE OF BETTE & BOO, THE AGONY AND THE AGONY and MARATHON DANCING.

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CUE: How did you get started in theatre?

VC: I always wanted a life in the theater.  I read ACT ONE by Moss Hart in High school and wanted that life.  It sounded vibrant, fun, exciting, important, and worthwhile. I moved to New York after college with one suitcase, and a sublet to go to graduate school at The NYU graduate musical theater writing program as a stage director.  I was paired with writers to collaborate on new musical works.  I would get up to present new songs and scenes from the writers, and Ira Weitzman (casting director, now the head of new musicals at Lincoln Center Theater) saw me present so much material, he decided that I really had the soul of an actor, and he gave me my first important audition. That quickly led to my first Broadway credit.  Once folks saw a Broadway show on my resumé, they assumed I was a successful actor.  I couldn’t convince them otherwise…ha!

CUE: Was theatre something you always wanted to do?

VC: It was either going to be theater, medicine or teaching.  I now believe they are all intricately linked and in many ways, the same thing.

CUE: Was there a particular event that led to your decision to pursue this professionally?

VC: My mom took me to see lots of theater and opera when I was growing up in Dallas.  I saw Oscar Wilde, Puccini, Thorton Wilder, Shakespeare, Smetena, Verdi, Jerry Herman.  We had cast albums around the house.  We listened to music all the time.  Music just makes everything better.  I guess I thought if I could be around music-makers and art-makers, that would be a pretty good life. Then my mom and dad sent me to the Interlochen Summer Music Academy when I was 17.  I had the opportunity to play Maria in West Side Story (I know, how Puerto Rican do I look?)  with full orchestra on a huge stage in a gorgeous production. I came back from that summer, and I knew I wanted to be in the theater.

CUE: What do you consider your first big break?

VC: Auditioning for Sunday in the Park with George.  I had to cover 3 three women and 11 roles. At my audition, my friend Ted Sperling, who played the piano for me,  got the job playing in the pit.  And I didn’t get it.  Then a few weeks later, another position in the cast opened up and I didn’t have to re-audtion.  They just called me to tell me I had the job.  I learned the music for all the tracks overnight! When I booked that first big job, I expected all the people backstage to be very grand and flamboyant– and hilarious.  I was shocked to find how down-to earth and kind and even blasé some people were about their jobs.  Most people were talking about their mortgages or their kids or what they were going to cook on their day off.  Where were the capes and mustaches? I was confused!

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CUE: What has been the biggest hurdle to overcome in pursuing a career?

VC: Maintaining confidence is a big thing.  We need confidence every day.  We need it when we’re working to get through the intense schedule and demands, and we need it when we are not working so that we have the hope and security of knowing that the next job will come.  Even the most confident self-assured people need more confidence because so much of what we do as actors involves being completely exposed and vulnerable, so there is a constant zipping and unzipping that goes on: protect/expose/protect/expose.  It can be exhausting at times.  And of course, there is Maintenance.  Even just maintaining the voice is a full-time job.  When to rest, when to practice, what to practice. I remember seeing Marilyn Horne on Johnny Carson when I was growing up, and he asked her, How do you sound so magnificent day after day?  How do you do that?  And she said,  I can count on one hand the number of times a year I wake up and my voice does exactly what I want it to do. The other 360 days of the year, it’s technique.  I’ve never forgotten that.  And to top it off, as you age and mature, the voice and body change and they require different maintenance, so the formula is contstantly changing.  This is what keeps this career fun.   Maintaining your body, your instrument, being kind to yourself, and taking care of your whole being with great love and understanding–this is important.   Understanding that this business takes its toll.  We must be kind to ourselves and to those around us.  It is so easy to be hard on ourselves, to be disappointed, self-critical and defeated.  It is very difficult to balance all the people and priorities that are important to you in this life.  Balance and poise are key.  Keeping a calm and confident head is essential. One must be able to talk one’s self off the cliff and say, “Really, is this nonsense going on in your head really necessary?  Why are you doing this to yourself? It’s not that important.  Get perspective. Take a nap!”

CUE: How have you seen Broadway change over the years?

VC: Well, in my humble opinion, it is getting too big for its britches.  Ticket prices are too steep– it has become entertainment for the privileged. I think in general, Broadway shows do not need to be capitalized at over $10 million per show.  These budgets are just getting so huge.  I prefer really simple productions where more is left to the imagination. For example, Susan Stroman’s production of The Scottsboro Boys was up my alley. A bunch of chairs, a board, and some tambourines.  Great lighting, amazing cast, inventive director.

CUE: How did you get involved in CINDERELLA?

VC: Robyn Goodman, Mark Brokaw, and Douglas Carter Beane asked me to do it.  They are three of the most insanely talented people in theater. How could I say no?  And I had always wanted to work with Laura Osnes.  It was a dream for me.  I will happily be there again for any of them, any time, anywhere.  And there is the score.  For a lyric soprano like me, it doesn’t get better than Rodgers and Hammerstein. And who doesn’t want to wear William Ivey Long costumes?  He is the Couturier of Broadway.   It just keeps being a big adventure.  Now with Carly Rae Jepsen and Fran Dresher joining the cast, we start another chapter of the production and it will be fantastic. They are just marvelous.

CUE: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

VC: The transformation scene in Act One. It is TRULY magical. This is the dramatic moment when the Fairy Godmother gets to make all of Cinderella’s wishes a reality!  What’s better than that?

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CUE: Any aspect of the show more difficult than you anticipated?

VC: My show is VERY physical onstage and off. There is a lot of running, fast changes, heavy costumes, and maneuvering around in all of that to make it look easy and natural. But to keep the machinery of my body healthy with all of that going on is a wonderful challenge.  And of course, I do all the magic without a wand.  This is not Magic 101.

CUE: You have those onstage costume changes – any mishaps or issues with those?

VC: YES, of course.  One time, half of the fairy costume just fell off the back of me, and Laura Osnes (playing Cinderella) and I didn’t stop singing.  I just dragged this huge piece offstage, like a dead body and kept going.  Live theater.  This is what we do.

CUE: How difficult or uncomfortable is the flying?

VC: Well, there is no safety wire, for one thing. On either device.  We have buckles of steel and steel rods, and carabiner clips, and cables that can hold grand pianos, but you just have to mentally get on board for the fact that, yep, you’re in the air.  Once I got used to that, it became really freeing and fun.  A different perspective, way up there.  I am eye to eye with a good portion of the audience in the balcony, that’s fun.

CUE: How do you deal with auditions, do they bother you or do you just let them go?

VC: Auditions are good for both the actors and the folks casting projects.  Actors can get a feel for the characters and see if this is a person they can relate to.  I don’t mind putting in the time to audition. But I don’t always audition for theater anymore.  I will get an offer to do something. And sometimes, if I say yes, this puts me behind in terms of preparation with the other actors who are cast who did prepare an audition.  So while it is nice to get an offer, it does sometimes mean you are finding your feet once you are already rehearsing in the room.

CUE: How do you define yourself as an actress – what type of roles interest and attract you?

VC: I don’t like definitions, but I would like to be seen as someone who has had the great fortune of playing a wide range of characters from crazy women (Marie/ Cinderella and Penelope Pennywise/Urinetown), and dreamers (Alice Beane/Titanic) to devastated (Fraulein Kost/Cabaret), affectionate smart-ass (Smitty, How To Succeed) to noble, courageous woman with a dilemma (Clarissa Hohmann/The Snow Geese and Margaret Johnson/The Light in the Piazza). I would say I am equally comfortable in musicals and plays.  I admire characters who have a difficult choice to make and who traverse hardship with grace and dignity.   The dignity and poise are what I search for in every character.

CUE: Are you aware of the audience and do they affect your performance?

VC: Of course. They are the most important scene partner.

CUE: What are our thoughts on reviews and reviewers and do you think they still influence the public? Do you read reviews?

VC: I do sometimes read the reviews of projects I am not in. I never read my own reviews.  The good ones have a way of running like ticker-tape through my brain in a way that I can never live up to, and the bad ones you’re just stuck with, like bad teeth.

CUE: Is there one project that you are most proud of in your career – one that stands out?

VC: I always try to be satisfied with my efforts no matter what I do.  There is enormous work, concentration, and sacrifice, no matter what the role, so at the end of every day, I try to say, good for you, be satisfied with today. You did your best. It is the only way to grow.

CUE: Are chat rooms and blogs helpful or hurtful to the theatre in your opinion?

VC: I don’t pay a lot of attention to the chatting and blogging.  I think it is probably most helpful for those who are blogging and chatting — getting practice at figuring out what they like and don’t like.

CUE: If you had the opportunity to replay any role that you played – which would it be and would you do anything different?

VC: I would love to do Piazza again, and of course, it would be different.  It would have been different if we had opened it again in three months.  Now it is nearly 9 years since we opened on Broadway.

CUE: Do you think that Broadway is too much the measurement of success for a stage actor?

VC: Perhaps.  There is brilliant work all around us and all around the globe.  But I think most people figured that out a long time ago.  Broadway is such a huge commercial industry and tourist industry though, and it has the advantage of being in New York, so it does get a lot of exposure.

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CUE: What was the funniest thing that happened to you on stage in any show?

VC: Oh, gosh…that’s a good question. Well, I love anything that goes wrong in a show, as long as NO ONE is hurt, so I am a sucker for stage machinery or computers malfunctioning.  There was the time the turntable wigged out on us in Les Mis on the road in Philadelphia or Washington D.C., I can’t remember, and it kept speeding up and and wouldn’t stop.  And there were three actors out there, and I felt like we were on this insane lazy susan and we were going to spin off of it like salt and pepper shakers. And at various times, a piece of a set has come off in my hands, once in Sister Act, once in summer stock in Hello Dolly.   Actually in Hello Dolly, one time, at PCLO, I slipped, fell, and broke a couple of footlights that rimmed the stage, and the audience gasped and thought I had cut myself, so I had to get up and show everyone that I was all right,and I totally went off the script and just visited with the audience for a few minutes and talked about growing up in Dallas or my mom or whatever, and was basically doing a stand-up routine.  It was so much fun, I had to force myself to get back to the play.  Every now and then I meet someone who was at that performance in Pittsburgh, and they tell me what a hoot it was to be in the audience that night.  But you can do that with Dolly.  I wouldn’t try that with Lady Bracknell.  Or would I?  Luckily a lot of the roles I get are kind of in a special partnership with the audience, so it would probably work.

CUE: How do you know when it is time to leave a show?

VC: When I start walking into the set. Onstage.

CUE: Do you ever get to rest on your laurels or is it always a case of looking for the next show?

VC: I am getting better at resting, but of course, I am always assessing and trying to figure out where to go next and what would be the best fit for my skills as I grow and mature.

CUE: What has been the best career advice that you have been given?

VC: Yes, you can do everything in this life, but perhaps not all at the same time!


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