BWW Interviews: MEMPHIS Tour Star Jasmin Richardson
From the underground dance clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, MEMPHIS is a TONY award-winning Broadway musical that bursts off the stage with explosive dancing, irresistible songs and a thrilling tale of fame and forbidden love. Inspired by actual events, MEMPHIS is about a radio DJ who wants to change the world and a club singer who is ready for her big break.
Jasmin Richardson joined the touring cast of MEMPHIS in September and she talked to me about what it's like to play Felicia and how she grew up in Houston, Texas.
Tell us a little bit about growing up in Texas and how you started performing.
Growing up in Texas was an experience and I say that because there are no seasons. I didn't really know what it was like to be really cold until I moved to New York. But I loved it; all of my family is in Houston. As far as the performing aspect of things, I started out a little bit later. I started in my senior year of high school because theatre wasn't considered cool in my group. I was more of an athlete. I did track and field for 3 years at my high school. I auditioned for my first show; it was The Wiz, my senior year and wound up getting Dorothy oddly enough. I have always sung. I would sing in church so that wasn't new to me. I think that role was huge and it opened my eyes to a whole other world as far as theater was concerned. I auditioned for my university, Abilene Christian University, once I graduated high school and it changed my life. It changed the way I viewed the world, truly. I found something that I was really good at and it allowed me to focus in on a craft and to really try to not only master it but really appreciate it. So that is what I did. I went off to school. I didn't have a lot of experience. I was very new and made a lot of mistakes. By the time that I graduated I had a pretty good understanding of what I wanted to do as far as theater and of course the ultimate goal of where I wanted to be, which was on Broadway. When I graduated college, I wound up doing several cruise ships and my main goal was to save up enough money so I wouldn't necessarily have to struggle but I would have my full savings sot that I could audition every day or as often as I needed to. When I moved to New York, I wouldn't necessarily have to struggle but I would have a nice little savings. It kinda worked out for me. Once I moved to New York after being on ships for two years, I sorta hit the ground running. I wound up working, not necessarily right away, but pretty quickly. I just tried to learn as much as I could. I worked with some pretty fantastic people. It was a great experience; each show I got better and better and I grew. The same goes for this experience now. I am still learning. You can never know enough about something you truly love and are passionate about. That's how I started in theater and my career.
What are some of the things you learned by working on the cruise ships?
Cruise ships really helped me find my individual style. With our show the music now like jazz, blues, rock and roll, and on the ships, it can really help you get a feel of the different genres. It helped me be more flexible. It also allowed me to see life a whole other way as far as traveling aspect was concerned. A lot of the places that I have been I never would have experienced if I hadn't done cruise ships. It really did help me as far as being more adaptable and flexible and broadening my range of course singing different styles.
What are some of your fondest memories of some of the shows, like Dreamgirls, that you have gotten to do?
Dreamgirls was very special to me because it was one of my mother's favorite shows and still is. It was a show that, I initially had auditioned for when I got to New York but I didn't get right away. So I auditioned again and got the part of Michelle. It was very excited just to be a part of something like that, so when it came along to tour, I felt like I really made it. Looking back on it now, it really was a huge learning curve for me. It taught me how to do 8 shows a week. It taught me that the show must go on. There were lots of thing that would happen each day and you would think "Oh my goodness. There is no way this show is going to happen" but it did. It was a huge learning experience and it also kinda taught me that when you do have a majority of the lines, what it takes to keep that stamina and embrace everything that happens. I apply everything that I'm feeling. I apply everything that might have happened that day. It helps you. So that's how I look at it and all of the shows that I've done in the past. It allows me to get to the point where I anticipate where I can embrace the things that are happening around me and use them onstage.