BWW Interviews: Christine Ebersole Makes Her Return to Musicals in Paper Mill's EVER AFTER!
Two-time Tony Award-winner Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens, 42nd Street) will take on the role of Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent in Paper Mill Playhouse's upcoming production of EVER AFTER, directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes,Nice Work If You Can Get It), and featuring a book and lyrics by Marcy Heisler and music by Zina Goldrich. The show begins performances Thursday, May 21, 2015, and runs through Sunday, June 21, 2015.
Today the actress speaks exclusively to BroadwayWorld and shares her excitement over starring in the first musical she has done in nine years!
Were you familiar with the film 'Ever After' prior to joining the cast?
I wasn't familiar with it at all actually, I had never seen it. So when I got the offer I watched the movie!
In the show, you play the Baroness, better known as the evil stepmother. Do you see her as pure evil, or do you think there is some goodness in her, and perhaps her behavior is a result of her jealousy towards her step daughter?
Oh nobody is pure evil. And the challenge to an actor is to make someone human and to try to discover what motivates them to do the bad things that they do. You know, figure out what need is that negative behavior coming out of. So that's really what the rehearsal process is exploring, how can we make her human? But it's a lot of fun. Even though I'm always trying to find the humanity in the character so she's not a cardboard cutout, it's still a lot of fun.
I imagine that will be a challenge because it is such an iconic character and audiences already have a pre-conceived notion of her.
Yes. I actually think that was also true of [42nd Street's] Dorothy Brock . She was thought of as this bitchy, driven woman and I think that we managed to find the humanity in that character, you know make her vulnerable in spots,
even if it meant that she was alone on stage, just to see what it was that was driving her, what made her so nasty.
What do you think it is about the story of Cinderella in general, that makes it so timeless?
Well it's boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again! [laughing] But I think what's great about 'Ever After' is that this time, they are on equal playing field in a way. You know there's no mice, there's no fairy godmother, she's not a damsel in distress. She's a formidable person, and I like that about it.
And I love the twist of having Leonard Da Vinci serve as a sort of mentor to her, rather than a fairy godmother.
Yes - the wise old man, the artist, yes.
And speaking of Da Vinci, Tony Sheldon will be playing him in the show, and will be among a truly amazing
cast. Have you worked with any of these actors previously?
Well I've worked with Charles Shaughnessy before. And director Kathleen Marshall as well, who is also the choreographer. It's just wonderful to be working with her again. And rehearsals have been so exciting. There are 30 cast members and everyone is so talented. It's just very exciting. The music is fantastic, the book, the lyrics, it's just an incredible cast so I'm thrilled to be on board.
You are a New Jersey resident, correct?
Yes, so that's another added benefit of working at Paper Mill, it's not too far from home. And Paper Mill really is an institution. And now they have more shows going on to Broadway, which is great.
Yes, I even heard talk of 'Ever After' making the transfer.
Well, that's what I'm sure they are hoping for.
And you've been involved in several productions at Paper Mill throughout your career.
Yes, well in the early days I was in 'Shenandoah' with Ed Ames, and that was back in the '70's, I think it was the old theater. Then I was in a production of 'Paper Moon' in 1993, and then 'Mame' in 1999. And that was the last time.
So it must be nice to be making your return.
Yes, it is, 16 years later.
I loved your recent appearance in the new Netflix series "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" in which you played an evil mother. I'm wondering if that was good practice for this upcoming role?
[laughing] You know that whole experience was a blast. Such a fun group of people, and it was done in Queens so that was fun as well.
Do you know if your character will be returning for the second season of the show?
Oh, one can only hope. I would love that. You never know.
Any exciting projects ahead once the production of 'Ever After' wraps?
Well right now, just concerts and things. Everything changes from day to day so you never know what you're going to wake up and find! That's the beauty and the tension of the business - you never know what's around the corner. But I'm mostly looking forward to 'Ever After.' It's been nine years since I've done a musical, Grey Gardens was nine years ago. We opened in 2006, isn't that amazing?
It really is. And your appearance in this musical is going to be a treat for all of us!
Oh thank you. I am really looking forward to it!
About EVER AFTER:
Ever After begins performances Thursday, May 21, 2015, and runs through Sunday, June 21, 2015. IT will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:00pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm, Friday at 7:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm. Tickets are on sale now and range from $28 to $99. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at www.PaperMill.org. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Groups of 10 or more can receive up to a 40% discount on tickets and should call 973.315.1680. College students can order $20 RUSH tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office on the day of the performance.
Abour Christine Ebersole:
Christine Ebersole has captivated audiences on the Broadway stage, television series and specials, films, concert appearances and recordings. Ms. Ebersole is a Paper Mill Playhouse favorite who starred in several Paper Mill shows including Mame, Paper Moon and Shenandoah.
One of her first jobs was as an understudy in the Broadway musical On the Twentieth Century, followed by her turn as Ado Annie in Oklahoma! From there it was on to Ryan's Hope, One Life to Live and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE before landing the high-profile role of Guinevere opposite Richard Burton in Camelot.
Ms. Ebersole then shifted her focus from stage to screen and soon headed to Hollywood, appearing in many hit movies, including Amadeus, Tootsie and Richie Rich. She added an extensive list of television credits as well, including The Cavanaughs, Valerie and the title role in Rachel Gunn, R.N.
Her ensuing New York stage performances include her Tony Award-winning performance as Dorothy Brock in the smash hit revival of 42nd Street, Steel Magnolias, The Best Man, and Dinner at Eight, for which she received both Tony and Outer Critics Circle nominations.
Ms. Ebersole received virtually every Off-Broadway award and her second Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical for her dual role as Edith Bouvier Beale and "Little Edie" Beale in Grey Gardens. Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, the show was nominated for ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and its CD was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Ms. Ebersole's career continued to arc with her starring role in Blithe Spirit on Broadway with Angela Lansbury and her many guest appearances on innumerable popular television series, including her recurring role as Ms. "New Parts" Newberg in the hit cable show Royal Pains. Ms. Ebersole continues to appear in numerous concert halls and cabaret venues throughout the country, including performances in City Center Encores!, at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, the Kennedy Center, Boston Symphony Hall, Feinstein's and Café Carlyle.
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT image courtesy of Netflix
GREY GARDENS photo credit: Joan Marcus