BWW Interviews: SISTER ACT Stars Talk 'Sunday Intermission Covers,' Challenge Broadway Community
Anyone who travels for work knows that living out of suitcases and sleeping in hotels every night can be taxing. Well, recently three members of the SISTER ACT First National Tour decided to liven up life on the road by creating "Sunday Intermission Covers."
Every Sunday, Ashley Moniz, Chris Cooke, and Tad Wilson quickly change costumes and then set up in front of a camera to sing a new, stripped down song. Recently the three spoke to BroadwayWorld about the project and their challenge for the rest of the Broadway community.
I would imagine that living, traveling, and working with as many musical people as you do that there was a lot of singing going on even before you started these videos. Is that a big part of the tour life for you guys?
A: Yea, us three used to jam around on the guitar and play around with different songs, and that's how it started. As we were playing around with a bunch of songs, we started singing "Let It Go." And then said, "How can we make 'Let It go' different, because everyone is doing different covers of 'Let It Go' right now?"
Once we kind of worked with the "bada-bas," making it our own, I was just like, "Guys, what if we filmed this?" But there's a lot of pressure in the theater world. People come up with all of these amazing production videos all the time, and we just thought it would be so much fun if we just sang it in costume. And then we were having so much fun with that, we just thought, "Why don't we try to do this every week?" Tour gets a little boring sometimes (laughs).
And our show's actually closing at the end of June, so there were 13 weeks left, and we thought it would be fun if we did a cover every week as we're closing out the tour.
So, where did the idea to do it during intermission come from? The Saturday Intermission Pics (#SIP) are a big thing online. Did that provide a bit of inspiration to do your covers during intermission?
T: Yes, that was actually Ashley's idea. She talked about the Saturday Intermission Pics and then she quickly said we should do Sunday Intermission Covers, and we had a good laugh about it, but then it stuck. And so the element of the intermission, obviously it won't be an "intermission cover" if you don't do it during intermission. The other thing is that it's such a small amount of time, it's such a challenge to get the song done with all of the chaos that's happening backstage.
So to squash any conspiracy theories, all of these are actually filmed during intermission of your Sunday shows? They aren't filmed earlier and just released as "Sunday Intermission Covers?"
A: Yea, they actually are filmed during Sunday intermission. There are times afterwards were we run around going, "Did they call places? Did they call places? We have to get in costume."
T: You can watch them too. Look they're not perfect. Chris and myself are not guitar players, but this has pushed us to get out of our comfort zone. But, if you watch the videos, they're not polished. That's an element of it too, that was never a goal. It's just fun. It's just kind of like a jam session; it's a peek into the backstage life of touring actors and Broadway actors. But it gives a different side, a fun side. But if anyone has conspiracy theories that these things are done at other times, just watch me in the videos.
C: You'll notice too with me, I'm always kind of seriousness in them, I started to realize, because I'm terrified I'm going to miss the show (all laugh). I'm wearing double-layer costumes. I try and change ahead of time, so that right when the show starts, I can just go on stage, but I'm terrified I'm going to miss the show.
Have there been any that you've had to shoot multiple times. Like some that just were awful and you had to scramble to get done in time?
A: There's actually been times when people walk in. In Portland a dresser came in and knocked over the camera. So, yeah that definitely happens. There was even one day when we filmed at intermission at the matinee and the camera wasn't working, so we had to film again at the evening show. But it was still Sunday; we always film on Sunday. What we keep saying is that if something happens and we don't get a good cut, well that's kind of hilarious! We'll post what we have.
C: Initially we were like, "We have to make these really perfect," then we realized that's gonna be impossible. If someone walks in, and goes, "Hey, what are you guys doing?" we need to laugh and keep going, because that's the beauty of it, and people really feel like they're backstage watching these. While we were filming once, they were like, "Ladies and gentlemen, just a public service announcement," and we were like oh we've got to stop. Then we realized that was so fun for people to hear that, and for people to realize that we're clearly doing it at intermission and anything can go wrong.
T: We talked about experimenting with different locations and actually being backstage at some point. I guess we've just got of scratch the surface for this.
Chris, I've noticed in these videos Ashley and Tad always have the same costume on, but you have a different one on almost every week. Is that because you're in various stages of getting ready for Act II?
C: Yes, Ashley and Tad pointed out to me that I should probably keep the same costume on, because it might confuse people, but what I do is I actually wear that suit underneath the altar boy outfit. I do that to get ahead of the schedule. I always change during intermission, but sometimes I don't put the other part on, because I'm so warm and to try to strum guitar with that altar boy outfit on is pretty difficult. You'll see me in "Let It Go" (watch the video here) I'm sweating beyond, and thinking "Gotta have a happy face!"
How do you guys go about picking what songs to cover each week and working out the arrangements?
A: We have certain songs that we love that are hits right now. So we start working on those. There's a lot of times we will get together and just play a bunch of songs, but we don't know which one we want to do until maybe Friday.
Every single week we try to do something different. We were thinking when we're in California, "Let's do 'California Gurls'" (watch the video here). We try to do make it what city we're in. It's important to do popular songs too; things that people want to hear, like "Let It Go," and this week we are doing "Happy" (watch the video here). We've been getting a lot of requests from fans of the show, and friends, and people reaching out to us. So that's exciting to know that people are watching and enjoying it.
I've noticed on your website that it appears that you're looking to extend the SIC banner to include other shows. Is that something that is in the works?
A: Yeah, actually Chris is a web designer, and we were thinking, "Our show is closing at the end of June, and having so much fun with this, what if more people got involved?" Then we had this idea to challenge other casts to do it. Like the Saturday Intermission Pics, when Andrew Keenan-Bolger started it, I thought that was such a cool thing to bring the Broadway community together. And there's so many people out there that are more gifted than we are at playing instruments and singing and thinking about arrangements, but it doesn't have to be every week like we do it, we're on tour, so we need projects (laughs). But, we're thinking it would be so awesome to have other casts jump on the bandwagon and do it too.
So is there anything official planned or are you going to lay down the gauntlet at a later date?
C: I made the site just to say, "Hey, we'll see what happens. No one might want to do this with us, but we might as will have it available to get people going, 'Oh that's a fun idea maybe, our show will do that'.'"
T: Because eventually our show's closing, so the Sunday Intermission Covers from SISTER ACT are coming to an end in June. So for more covers to be on the site, it'll have to come from other shows, until we get cast in another show, and we start doing it with other people and other shows. It's sort of a sad thing to think about, but this is a huge community and there's a lot of talented people out there, and they need to get to work! The challenge has been issued!
C: The goal is not to be really professional. The goal is that there's mess ups and they're all done during intermission, and you're not rehearsing constantly, then it just becomes another job. The goal is to have a fun thing to do and if there's mess ups, that's hilarious, let it go.
No pun intended.
C: No, there was definitely pun intended.
Before we go is there anything else about this project that you want people to know about?
A: When Chris made the website, we had this idea that we've been talking about. There's always cabarets in New York and benefit concerts and people do covers at them, but we can't really reach out for Broadway Cares on tour. So, we have a link on the website, and if you watch the videos and you enjoy them, it would be nice if you maybe made a donation to Broadway Cares.
Check out all of the Sunday Intermission Covers at their website. You can also follow them on Twitter @SundayIntCover. You can follow Ashley @AshMonyMony, Chris @ChrisSpeaketh, and Tad @TadWilson. Also check out SISTER ACT as it winds down its tour.