BWW Interviews: Just in Time for THE MUSIC MAN Opening, Pendzick, Murphy and Ruff Tackle THE FRIDAY FIVE

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Inspired by BroadwayWorld.com's Friday Six, welcome to Nashville.BroadwayWorld.com's latest installment of The Friday Five: five questions designed to help you learn more about the talented people you'll find onstage throughout the Volunteer state.

Today's spotlight hones in on a supremely talented trio of individuals from Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville. The altogether amazingly talented Ron Murphy is the company's resident music director (who truly has his work cut out for him since musicals are the stock in trade at CCP), the beautiful and vibrant Lindy Pendzick (who we first saw onstage in Brigadoon and most recently as Maria in The Sound of Music-and she stars opposite her husband Greg Pendzick in the nostalgic comedy See Rock City) and the versatile and charming Michael Ruff (whose burgeoning resume includes starmaking turns in Duck Hunter Shoots Angel, Dreamgirls, Brigadoon and, most recently, as Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy, opposite Carol Irvin and Daniel W. Black).

Tonight, Lindy debuts as Marian "the librarian" (opposite Britt Hancock's Prof. Harold Hill) in Cumberland County Playhouse's much anticipated production of Meredith Willson's The Music Man with Michael playing one of the residents of River City, Iowa-and Ron will be beneath the stage, directing the orchestra and providing his trademark musical direction.

We posed our Friday Five questions to the three tremendous talents and, amazingly, they were all able to find time to provide some interesting, intriguing and eye-opening answers. Here's our suggestion: Read their Friday Five, then make reservations and take a road trip to Crossville and see what we've always raved about at Cumberland County Playhouse. For details, go to www.ccplayhouse.com!

Fair warning: If you're a Playhouse neophyte, prepare to have your socks blown off-and to find yourself making the trip ever more often to witness some of the best musical theater this side of Broadway!

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Lindy Pendzick

What was your first "live onstage" taste of theater? My first "live onstage" taste of theater was a Community College production of The Sound of Music in my hometown of Palatka, Florida. I was nine years old and was cast as Marta von Trapp. I had never seen or been a part of a theatrical show before then, and I caught the performing bug right away!

What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I always have to do a full vocal warm-up before I feel completely ready to start a show. I also like to say a little prayer before each show. It gives me a sense of peace and helps me center myself.

What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? Thankfully, nothing too horrific has happened to me during a show...yet. Of course, I have had my share of costume malfunctions, power outages, music tracks skipping to different parts of songs, and unscheduled animal appearances onstage. Most of these occurrences just added to the magic that is live theater!

What's your dream role? I feel very fortunate to say that I recently performed my dream role of Maria in The Sound of Music at Cumberland County Playhouse. I grew up watching and loving the movie. After being cast as Marta von Trapp when I was a child, I dreamed of playing Maria someday. It is truly a joy to play this role, and I'm so thankful for this dream come true!

Who's your theatrical crush? It may be cheesy, but I have a huge theatrical crush on my husband, Greg. There's just something exciting about a handsome tenor wailing away on some high notes!

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Ron Murphy

What was your first "live onstage" taste of theater My first theater experience was my freshman year of college. I was asked head of the piano department at Arkansas State to accompany for a production of The Fantasticks for the theater department. The music was difficult but fun to play for a young musician. No pay, but the theater department allowed me to take the Fine Arts Theater 101 class without having to attend class or take a test as payment. The cool thing was that I got to play on a grand piano located on the floor in the front of the stage with a passerelle built around it. This also marked the first show where an actor leapt over me during a song to the front of the passerelle.

What is your favorite pre-show ritual? My pre-show ritual is lots of arm and shoulder stretches.  A lot of people don't realize how physical it gets when playing a two to three hour show.

What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? My most memorable "the show must go on moment" was during CCP's 2004 production of Beauty and the Beast.  During the song "Gaston," Lafou did a pirouette and fell right into the orchestra pit next to me, knocking over one of the two keyboards I was playing. If you haven't seen the pit at The Playhouse before, it's quite a drop from the stage to my platform, so Lafou was holding on to the stage with his arms while the rest of him was dangling to the right of me.  My orchestra nearly stopped playing but I managed to keep them going.  All I could see was the actor's butt while he tried to pull himself up, so I reached out and pushed hard to help him back onto the stage. It was one of the scariest moments I've ever experienced during a live show!

What's your dream role? Since I'm a music director and not an actor (though I love getting speaking lines in shows sometimes!), I'll tell you some of the dream shows I would love to work on.  I would love to music direct Avenue Q, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Catch Me If You Can. I get to work on a lot of diverse shows at The Playhouse so I've already played a lot of my dream shows, such as Into the Woods and A Little Night Music (I'm a huge Sondheim fan-intelligent music for the win!).

Who's your theatrical crush? My theatrical crush is my stunningly beautiful and amazingly talented wife, the actress and singer, Lauren Marshall Murphy!  When I was in college, my Broadway crush was Ellen Greene, who played Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors.

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Michael Ruff

What was your first "live onstage" taste of theatre? I was in the fourth grade and our school was doing a drug-free program and they cast me in the role of Steve Urkel from Family Matters to tell the kids "Up with Hope, Down With Dope." We followed up the next year with a dual role as Steve and Myrtle Urkel.

What is your favorite pre show ritual? I know this is bad for singers but I have to have a cigarette and go over my lines right before the show calms my nerves.

What's your most memorable "the show must go on moment"? It's 11 a.m. in the morning and my boss Jim Crabtree calls me and says, "can you come in and learn the role of Stanley Sanders in A Sanders Family Christmas?" and I was like okay; I had full intentions of just doing a few rehearsals, but wound up doing the whole run that year. At least i learned to play the bass!

Whats your dream role? Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime.

Who's your theatrical crush? Weslie Webster, all the way-not only is she a beautiful person offstage, but I learn something from her every time she is onstage-and she is absolutely hot! 

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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