BWW Interviews: Amanda Rose Thrives on Every Experience
Musical theatre actress Amanda Rose has been living her dream since her graduation from Charleston College over a decade ago; she has been performing steadily on Broadway, on tour, and in regional theatres across the country. Now based in New York City, she, nonetheless, understands that an actress' life is peripatetic and unpredictable, and she relishes the new experiences that come with her journey.
The month of June brings her to Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, Maine, where she assumes the leading female role of Pam Lukowski in David Yazbek's musical adaptation of the 1997 British film, The Full Monty. Together with her colleagues, Rose is reprising this role from director Donna Drake's production which closed the season at Lancaster's Fulton Theatre last month. She says that aside from some changes necessitated by the different configurations of the Lancaster house and the Pickard Theatre, her role hasn't really been tinkered with in the intervening weeks. But that does not mean Rose has not been continuing to work on her characterization, "The author didn't flesh out Pam as much as one might have liked, so I have been trying to add in the backstory and context. I am not a single Mom, but I have been in relationships where everything is perfect except for one thing, and if you could change that thing, the situation would work out. That's the way I see Pam and Jerry, her unemployed steel worker ex-husband. She does love him, but he can't get his life together in the way she thinks he should. And, unfortunately, a child is involved, and that is the deal breaker for her. Her child comes first now, and Jerry is not stepping up to take responsibility."
On a short break from rehearsal two days before the show's opening, Rose enthusiastically continues her narrative about her role and the import of then play. She comments on Pam's relationship to her old women friends, especially Georgie, played by Charis Leos. "We have that one scene in the bathroom where we confide to each other our woes. I love that what's troubling them are issues with which everybody in a long term relationship can identify. They are faced with he possibility of breaking up, divorce, the uncertainty of where to go from there. They have been friends for a long time and they understand each other's problems."
Asked what she sees as the arc of Pam Lukowski's character, and what material she has supplied herself from her own imagination to round out her performance, she replies: "I talked a great deal with the other actors to see what their characters were feeling, and I used those thoughts. For example, Charis told me she thought that she and Pam had moved to different cities and didn't see each other much, but that they still have a strong connection from childhood and from the fact that their husbands are best friends. That helped me construct a context where I've moved on to a fancier life style in the hopes of making things better for my son, but it is good for me to go back to my roots and my old friends. And then, there is the mystery of the show's ending. Does Pam get back together with Jerry or is their relationship truly over? Peter [Matthew Smith] and I discussed our thoughts and concurred about what we hope the audience will feel. I'm not going to reveal that here, but we hope we communicate our take in the show," she smiles.
"Our director Donna Drake has her own thoughts about what the ending signifies, and the audience will have to decide for themselves, as well. But that's what is wonderful about The Full Monty. I think it is the kind of play where everyone can bring a little of his/her own experience to the table. Moving the setting to Buffalo makes it more relevant for American audiences. Sadly, almost everyone today knows someone who has been laid off through no fault of his or her own. So the subject matter is real. People can say 'I have felt that before;' maybe they haven't burst into song over it, but they understand the situations. There is so much heart in this show. It addresses so many current issues without shoving them down the audience's throat: homosexuality, single parenting, the taboo of regular men stripping. And it puts it all in a perspective that is warm and funny without being zany in the sitcom sense."
One feels the passion and seriousness with which Amanda Rose approaches her craft. She says being a singing-dancing-actress had been her dream from her childhood in South Carolina. "I started in ballet, and before I saw my first musical, I imagined I was going to invent an art form where I could dance and sing all at once. That was before my mother took me to New York City on spring break. We saw Cats, Phantom, and LES MISERABLES. I was hooked!" Rose went on to study acting performance with minors in voice and dance in university and performed extensively in college and community theatre. "I had so many wonderful mentors in both high school and college," she says. "And then there were also the people who told me I would not make it. They made me want to prove them wrong!"
After graduation, she packed her things and headed straight for the Big Apple. Among the highlights of her career, she landed the role of Nessarose in Wicked in 2008 and played the part on the national tour in 2009, returning to Broadway in the show from 2010-2014. She also played Laurey - and danced the dream ballet, as well - in the first national tour of Oklahoma, choreographed by Susan Stroman. She also has performed a great deal in major regional theatres in leading roles in shows such as Miss Saigon, A Chorus Line, Sunset Boulevard, 9 to 5, Annie, SIngin' in the Rain, and will go next to Pittsburgh's CLO to reprise her Gypsy Rose Lee.
She talks about the different experiences. "I love regional theatre, and I love Broadway. When I work on Broadway, I get to go home and socialize with my friends who are not in the show. It feels more like a normal work routine. In regional theatre, the cast becomes a family because you are all there for a fixed period of time, so you bond together." And Rose says she does not mind the tight rehearsal schedules in many regional productions. "It can be tricky; it is very tight here at MSMT - I remember when I did Swing here in 2005 I was a bit stressed. But I have gotten used to it. I try to remember that as terrifying as the whole process can seem, even when disasters seem to be looming, somehow at the last hour, everything gets pulled together. That's the magic of theatre!"
This same resilient attitude has allowed Rose to embrace touring. "I actually love it! You have to be OK with living out of a suitcase, but I love seeing the country." She cites Denver and the Western desert as some of her favorite places, and having been in Maine twice before (in Brunswick for Swing and in Ogunquit for Miss Saigon), she says even on a rainy day such as this one, "it is so pretty here, so green. You don't get that in New York!" The actress also enjoys the energy and anticipation which greet shows liked Wicked each time the house lights dim in a new city. "The feeling is so incredible; the people are so excited and friendly and generous."
While Rose relishes all aspects of her onstage career, she is realistic about the other experiences that round out an actor's life. "Auditioning is just part of the job," she explains. "Rejection is part of the game. Even when you have been in a Broadway show, you still have to work to get your next job, and most of the time, you don't get it. So you have to stay positive and try again tomorrow." Asked how she maintains this sanguine, upbeat attitude, she confesses that "It is not always easy, but when I do get down, I focus on the realization that I will be upset for today, but by tomorrow I will be fine again, and I will go on. So many times I have felt as if I were at the bottom of the barrel and then something has always happened to shake me out of that. I get a callback or something that changes my mood entirely. That seesaw has occurred so often that I now know that when I am down, the up will come, and all I have to do is hang on until then."
Naturally, as with most actors, Rose has undertaken a whole array of supplementary jobs between gigs. But she views these positively as well. "All my other jobs are interesting in one way or another. I try to keep myself entertained and not get bored. I was the TD Bank mascot once. There I was inside this triangle on one of the coldest days in New York, waiving to the passers-by. The New Yorkers ignored me, but the kids and the tourists loved it! One of the best extra jobs I had was ushering in a Broadway theatre because I got to see the show develop and study the actors' performances. Or I have done catering at some very fancy parties, and I like to observe the guests." She pauses for a second, a twinkle in her eye before revealing her rationale: "It's all experience I can use as an actress."
Photos Courtesy Maine State Music Theatre and Amanda Rose
The Full Monty runs June 3-20, 2015 at the Pickard Theatre, Brunswick, ME www.msmt.org