THE FRIDAY FIVE: Pippin's Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva and Lynda Cameron-Bayer Reveal All Their Secrets


Inspired by's Friday Six, welcome to's latest installment of The Friday Five: five questions designed to help you learn more about the talented people you'll find on stages in the Volunteer State.

Today, we have two unique-and we daresay spectacular and wonderful-women who are paired together, thanks to director Paul J. Cook, in helping to bring Pippin to life at the Boiler Room Theatre: Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva and Lynda Cameron-Bayer. Jennifer is part of the powerhouse cast of the Stephen Schwartz musical (which has been acclaimed by every critic in town), while Lynda is the production's costume designer, dressing the ensemble in a gorgeous assortment of circus-inspired garb. Each woman, at any particular time, is sure to knock your socks off, so be prepared to lose 'em…

Over the years, they've both appeared on a plethora of local and regional stages and any time you read their names in a program, you know they're going to deliver the goods. But here's something you probably don't know: I first met Jennifer (who last year wowed the crowd at First Night with her performance of "Random Black Girl," a peformance that still has people talking) when she was a toddler and it was only about a year ago when we realized that! And Lynda (who returned to the stage earlier this year, playing opposite her husband David Bayer in Cook's production of Company for Circle Players) played Sunny Freitag in my production of The Last Night of Ballyhoo for Circle Players in 2000. In other words, I go way back with both Jennifer and Lynda, so I hope you can forgive me for being prejudiced about them…

Meanwhile, you can read about them here-get to know them a little bit better-then call BRT at (615) 794-7744 and make reservations to see Pippin! Then, come September you can see Jennifer in Tennessee Rep's Clybourne Park and, well, I'll have to get back to you with Lynda's breakneck schedule (she moves from one show to the next with such speed that I can't keep up!). Or, you can join us at The First Night Honors Gala on September 2 at The Troutt Theatre where they'll both be prominently featured (I have insider information)…

So, gentle readers, press on…and find out more about the beautiful, talented, mercurial, creative, remarkable and amazing Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva and Lynda Cameron-Bayer (see, they both have hyphenated last names!). No thanks necessary, just doing my job here…


Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva

What was your first "live onstage" taste of theater? My first live onstage taste of theatre was in elementary school. The play was Lewis and Clark the musical. None of the teachers knew what to do with me, so they made me Sacagawea. I didn't really have speaking lines, but I did have a song. I couldn't remember it if I tried, but I remember being so happy to be on stage. 

What is your favorite pre-show ritual? My favorite pre-show ritual is to listen to my iPod. I like to put it on a Disney shuffle. Something about classic Disney really gets me in the zone!

What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? In college I was in a lovely production of To Kill a Mockingbird. I was playing Calpurnia, and had acquired food poisoning from bad tacos the night before. Let's just say that it might have been the longest courtroom scene of my life. They put trash cans on the floor of the risers where we were sitting.  We had made a special code, so that when I knew I was going to get sick all the black people started fanning the fans real hard, and making noise. That way nobody would hear me getting sick! Ha! Good times!

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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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