BWW Interview: Christine Andreas Talks BE-MUSED at the Annenberg, Set for Tonight
Christine Andreas brings her much hailed and highly anticipated Cabaret "be-Mused" to The Annenberg Theatre in Palm Springs tonight, January 18 at 8:00 pm.
Ms. Andreas first captured New York City theatre-goer's hearts and became a bonifide star in the 20th anniversary production of MY FAIR LADY as Eliza Doolittle (Theatre World Award); followed by the revival of OKLAHOMA!, as Laurey, working with Billy Hammerstein & Agnes deMillle (Tony Nomination); and ON YOUR TOES, as Frankie Frayne, directed by the legendary director George Abbott, (Tony Nomination). She created the role of Marguerite St. Just on Broadway in the original production of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL opposite Douglas Sills and Terrence Mann. She starred as Jacqueline in the Tony & Olivier Award-winning Production of 'La Cage Aux Folles' starring Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge and received nation-wide raves starring as Margaret Johnson in the 55 week national tour of the Tony Award winning musical, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA.
I had the opportunity to chat with Ms. Andreas about her upcoming Cabaret Performance at The Annenberg Theatre in Palm Springs, and all things "Christine". Here are a few excerpts from that interview.
DG: You have been described as "a mesmerizing musical presence" and "anything anyone who loves romantic pop music could ever want" How would you describe yourself?
CA: Oh, my God - after all that? (She laughs) I never thought about how I describe myself before. What a good question. A girl who loves to sing, you know? I think all those (accolades) are the result of a way of thinking about music. If it comes through you that way and people feel that's the result it's because you're doing it un-self -consciously and open-heartedly. You know? Letting the music work on you. Which I think is the magic. True charisma in any artist - from the artists I've observed over the years and have been so mesmerized by - like Rosy Clooney, for example, or Ella - they just let the music work on them. So, the same lyric or melody that you've heard since childhood - it goes through their musical soul and comes out in some unique way. And you've never heard it like that before. So, rather than "putting your stamp" on a song, which is the way so many people approach things nowadays, you just let the song stamp all over you. And then you're not afraid anymore. I've always been this way - like "I can't wait to sing this song". When I was a young kid auditioning for shows in New York, I would pick a sing that I HAD to sing for the audition. The song I used to sing was "He Touched Me" from Drat The Cat. DO you remember that song? Streisand sang it. And when I heard it I went - (she takes in breath) - because it's so full of enthusiasm and, you know, excitement and warmth and spontaneity, and I just intuitively picked this song. And I got every job when I used that song, and I couldn't wait to sing it. Now, if they asked me to dance that was another question (she laughs), but if I just had to sing --- and I think that my enthusiasm was contagious.
DG: Tell me about your background? Where did you grow up? How did you get started?
CA: Well. I was born in Southern Jersey and I was raised in New York, about 40 minutes from Manhattan - never went into the city as a kid. I did local theatre. Local things. And when I finally graduated from high school, I went in with my high school leading man - you know, all the trade papers under one arm and the Michael Shurtleff book "How To Audition" under the other arm - and we got on the bus - ended up at Port Authority - underlined everything on the bus, what venues had showcases and all. I think I underlined the African Room, And as I was calling The African Room I saw my high school leading man getting back on the bus. He couldn't do it. It terrified him. And I was kind of nervous too, but that's how I began. And I never really did formal schooling for it - it was just the school of doing it. I mean, I studied voice privately once I got to New York and I had studied a little bit before, but not very much. And I just started working, You could do that then. And, if it didn't work out I could just get back on the bus and go home for dinner. (She laughs) It wasn't as terrifying as arriving form Ohio or something.
DG: Do you remember the first time you ever appeared in front of an audience?
CA: I was in grammar school. I had to do a duet. I sang with Robert Patterson and we did "Hawaiian Wedding Song". I remember afterwards he tried to kiss me and I decked him. I was a bit of a tomboy. But I, of course, remember the response and how it felt.
DG: Who would you consider to be one of the biggest influences on your singing?
CA: The real influence was my Mom who was a very natural singer. I'm one of eight kids. She sang all day long around the house as she was just doing her chores and she sang very open-heartedly. Very, you know, un-self-consciously. And she had a very pretty voice -= thank God, because you could imagine listening to somebody all day who was off pitch (a laugh) - but, no - she sang all day, really wonderfully. And she must have sung when I was in utero because it became so natural for me to do. And I was a very shy kid, so that became more natural that relating in any other way. So singing in front of people never was all that terrifying. I mean, it has at certain points in my career. But, in the beginning it made me so happy and people's response was always like "whoa". On the way home from school I passed my Aunt Mary's - she worked for a doctor -and for a quarter - this is where I first got money - I would sing for the Wartzbergers and they would give me a quarter. And I loved singing for them because they would be so happy to hear this little kid sing - but they also gave me a quarter, That was show and business. That was my first taste.
DG: Do you remember your first professional audition?
CA: I guess it was Summer Stock. I think it was The Fantastiks - and I was a chubby little kid cause I was scared about life more than I was about singing - so when you're scared you protect yourself with weight, right? I think I weighed like 140 pounds or something - I mean, I was big because I'm not a tall girl. And I got The Fantastiks - in a big tent in Warwick, Rhode Island.
DG: What do you feel has been your most thrilling accomplishment to date?
CA: Other than my son? Singing is a constant unfolding of your heart in front of people. So, different experiences help you do that. And so I think I'd been - I had a rough couple of years - choices I made that weren't great, usually in men - and I had my son and that totally shifted my heart and really deepened my sense of being a person in this word. He affected my singing probably more than anything He's a special needs kid. He's 26 now, but he's arrested at four. He's a very happy guy so it's not a sad story. And he also helped change the course of my career. As I was realizing that I didn't know what his needs were going to be I realized that eight shows a week was far too expensive - you know, I couldn't afford this time of Broadway and eight shows a week - and I had to figure out how I was going to sing and also be a good Mom, because I was single-parenting at this point. And into my life came this guy, Martin Silvestri - he's my husband now - and Marty's a Grammy Nominated record producer and arranger and composer - and we started doing concerts and cabaret - our first gig was the White House with George The First, I'm fond of saying, And I never would have pursued that avenue of performance had I not had my son. It never would have occurred to me because I love theatre so much. It's funny how you get thrown these little curves and it ends up being the direction you need to take. That's not what you asked me, right?
DG: That was a perfect response. Is there a role you haven't yet played that you would like to play?
CA: Well. Now at this age - yeah. In my dream world, I'd like to play "Sunday In The Park With George" - which I almost did after Bernadette. And it didn't work. But I can now. I could do "Little Night Music". And I'd love to create a role, most of all. I'd love to have something written where somebody goes "You've gotta get Christine for that part, she's the only one". That would be the most thrilling of all. A big, new lush score. You hope for a role like that to come along. And one never did for me. That's the role that's puts a defining stamp on your name. But it just didn't unravel like that for me.
DG: What can audiences expect from your concert at The Annenberg Theatre this Saturday?
CA: I think they can expect to be very moved. I think they can expect that when they leave they will have dropped a lot of their cares at the door. Although I don't know how many cares people out here have - after spending all day golfing. (She laughs) But I think you leave yourself at the door and are taken to spots where you'll be surprised.
DG: Is this a themed concert?
CA: Actually, it is. It's a show I did at 54 below. The conceit of the show - because everybody loves themes - I HATE themes, but you know you've got to do them - I always try to finagle my way around the theme so I can sing exactly what I want to sing - and theme of this is "be-Mused" - so, to BE "mused" - and I'd say it's that magical - that musical spark that happens when just the right singer and just the right songwriter collide. So it's combinations of artists and writers - and I span the whole songbook. It's a real wonderful musical arc with little gossipy stories in between. So that's the conceit of the show, and it actually works really well. And I wrote the whole show myself, which is kind of fun because I didn't know I could do that - but it seems I can. (She laughs)
DG: What advice would you give to young performers pursuing a career in theatre?
CA: Well. I think in any kind of expression, the two words "know thyself" are the most important. And it's a little scary. You can cover up and become a persona - which a lot of artists have done very successfully - or you can tough it out - stand in front of people emotionally naked and let a song work on you. To not "show off" and just let the words move you takes a lot of courage. But I would encourage any young artist to do that. Let the music sing them.
DG: How do you want to be remembered on your tombstone?
CA: I guess "she knew herself". I can't think of a better tribute.