BWW Interviews: Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise on PIPPIN, Paulus' Vision, and Working Together
We caught up with actors Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at a Starbucks near American Repertory Theatre, where they are currently starring as Charles and Fastrada in the Diane Paulus-directed production of Roger O. Hirson's and Stephen Schwartz's Pippin. The couple, married in real life as well as in the show, is in Boston until the end of January, when the show prepares to transfer to Broadway. The conversation turned to the circus (a theme of Paulus' interpretation of the story), to historical and psychological perspectives on the show and its characters, and to their work with youth in the Triple Arts musical theatre intensive.
BWW: Welcome. You were up here during Hurricane Sandy, which treated Boston fairly well, but your home is in Manhattan. How did you make out with that?
CDA: Everything's fine. Our neighborhood was very lucky.
BWW: The children are with you - how are they enjoying Boston? For that matter, how are you enjoying it?
CDA: We're having a wonderful time. The girls have a nanny, but they're following our schedule... and going to bed at 2 a.m. And they have a friend from the show - Rachel's [Rachel Bay Jones'] daughter. I don't know what we're going to do with them when they have to go home and back to a regular routine.
BWW: Are they ready to run off and join the circus?
TM: (laughs) They are.
BWW: And you've had circus training yourself, haven't you?
TM: I had circus training at North Carolina School for the Arts, yes. I learned juggling, the unicycle, all of that sort of thing.
BWW: Speaking of unicycles, apparently there was an incident during rehearsals?
TM: On the first day of rehearsals, I was practicing on the unicycle and I fell off like I have a thousand times before, but this time I fell the wrong way and I tore my meniscus. I had to have surgery.
BWW: I have to apologize for asking... so, it's not just like riding a bike, then?
TM: (laughs) You would be very correct in that assessment - the only thing they have in common is a wheel.
BWW: The unicycle isn't the only circus routine you have in the show. Charlotte, I must ask if you really feel safe having him throw those knives at you.
CDA: Yeah, totally. He's actually really good at it.
TM: It's a trick, of course - but I actually can throw knives. And at one point in the show I was throwing four instead of two. We had to cut it to save ten seconds or so.
BWW: (to CDA) He throws knives? Really?
BWW: Charlotte, I'd like to ask you some questions about the dancing and choreography - and I regret that I don't know this... have you worked with Chet Walker before? I know you've both done SWEET CHARITY.
CDA: No, I hadn't worked with him previously. I did the Broadway SWEET CHARITY and I'm not sure which one Chet did. He's been around for years, of course, and I've met him, but I'd never worked with him before.
BWW: What's it like working with Chet?
CDA: He's wonderful. He knows his Fosse technique, and he can teach it fantastically. He's loving, he's supportive - he's great. He's made this show a very easy ride.
BWW: There was speculation when the creative staff was announced that there would be a recreation of Fosse's choreography, but obviously there's more than that at work here.
CDA: We realized pretty soon that wasn't going to happen. The circus choreography changes everything.
TM: The Manson Trio is reproduced. (CDA nods)
BWW: (to TM) You've directed many shows yourself, but you've never directed Pippin. You're acting in it, obviously... but as a director yourself, what is your take on this show?
TM: I've asked a lot of people about this show. Nobody quite seems to understand it. I couldn't tell you myself. We've done a lot of backstory on this. The original was pretty Woodstock. This version is a little different. I see it as our being the circus from Hell, traveling from town to town stealing souls, and then we meet this boy that says no.
BWW: That's interesting. The original was very Vietnam-era, very peaceniks versus Nixon.
TM: Exactly. And I think the circus helps here - I think it helps to clarify this story. The original is ambiguous, but the circus is black and white; with circus stunts, you either fail or you succeed. It clarifies the story.