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Broadway Bullet Interview: Tony Nominee Orfeh

This week we talk to Tony nominee and one of the stars of Legally Blonde, Orfeh. Also, we play "Ireland" from the Legally Blonde Cast Recording, which will be released on July 17th.

Orfeh was the founder and lead singer of the pop group Or-N-More. On Broadway Orfeh originated the role of "Annettte" in Saturday Night Fever, played "Rusty" in Footloose, and was one of the stars of Fascinating Rhythm. Off Broadway, she played "Janis" in Love, Janis, and "Pippi" in The Great American Trailer Park Musical.  And, yes, Orfeh is her real name.

For more info and to get tickets to Legally Blonde, click here.

To pre-order the cast recording visit Amazon or Sh-K-Boom

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You can listen to this interview and many other great features for free on Broadway Bullet vol 118. Subscribe for free so you don't miss an episode.

 or MP3 Feed with XML

Broadway Bullet Interview: Tony Nominated Actress, Orfeh

BROADWAY BULLET: Well, they are going to have to look for ways for this short name to fill up a marquee, because Orfeh has been lighting up stages in Legally Blonde, getting a lot of press, and now a Tony nomination --

ORFEH: Yes.

BB: -- For her role as Paulette in Legally Blonde. Orfeh is here between shows; I actually just saw the show myself just a few minutes ago.

ORFEH: And you beat me here!  Somehow, someway, you got here before I did.

BB: So how are you doing?

ORFEH: I'm doing great!  I'm happy to be here, and looking forward to chatting. 

BB: Are you -- do you get nervous at all, thinking about the Grammys coming up?

ORFEH: Not the Grammys.

BB: I mean Tonys!

ORFEH: But, you know what, I wish the Grammys were coming up, too.  I have been to the Grammys many, many times ,and I am a Grammy nominator, so that's not a completely off-the-wall question for me.

BB: Yes it's in your bio' that's probably where I got that.

ORFEH: True, that's what you're remembering it from.  But I'm nervous in a good way.  I'm nervous, you know, I hope my dress is great; I hope my shoes are fabulous, you know, I just think.

BB: Do you have a designer?

ORFEH: I do have a designer, I have this wonderful, wonderful up-and coming-guy, named Angelo Lambrou, and he built me a dress on my body.  Seriously, so I'm going for my third fitting this coming week, and hopefully it will be a big hit.  So, you know, it's all about the dress on the red carpet, so let's hope it's fabulous! 

BB: Well before we get going, we actually have a very sneak, advance copy of your song from the show, "Ireland".

ORFEH: Really?  You got one before I did!  So there you go.

BB: Do you want to -- should we let our listeners take a listen at that?

ORFEH: Sure!

Listen to "Ireland" on Broadway Bullet vol 118.

BB: For me, one of the most undeniable things about the song, and watching you today -- how does that big voice come out of that little body?

ORFEH: I don't know, I don't know! It's always been -- well it was a little stranger when I was six -- people are starting to digest it a little bit more easily now -- it was a little strange when I was a young girl, and it was that big voice coming out of this midget.  

BB: A lot of my listeners secretly love it when singers on Broadway don't have that traditional Broadway sound. 

ORFEH: Yes.

BB: And as you started singing that song I thought: Here is a great, unique voice.

ORFEH: Oh, thank you.  It gets me in some trouble now and again because some people -- their ear is trained for a specific type of voice when they go to a Broadway musical.  So I'm not likely to be cast in shows like Les Miz, and things like that.

BB: You should be! 

ORFEH: I know; it is interesting, you have to be really creative in every genre in entertainment, and I'm lucky I've had as many jobs as I have because it is.  I've been in a lot of pop musicals because that is the one avenue for singers like myself, singers who come from the record business like myself, and it isn't that standard legit Broadway voice. I have it, but I'm not called upon very often to use it, so I'm glad people are liking it.

BB: And you said pop musicals, you did Saturday Night Fever for a year and a half?

ORFEH: Yeah, eighteen months -- that would be a year and a half -- yeah that's right, yeah.

BB: And you didn't miss a performance.

ORFEH: I did not miss a performance; I have actually never missed a performance until about two weeks ago, which was apparently Le Scandal of all time.  Really, what happened was, I want to say I got hundreds of emails that said: "Omigod, are you okay?" and what happened was: they changed the carpet in my room, and a piece got stuck in my throat during the first show [a matinee performance, which was going to be followed by an evening performance], and I couldn't get it up out of my throat.  And Dr. Kessler, who is a genius, drove from Connecticut to see me between shows, but just on the offshoot of the off chance that he wouldn't have been able to heal me between shows, the stage manager and I decided that it would probably be fair to give everyone three hours notice, as opposed to twenty minutes notice.  It was the first time I ever missed a show in my entire, entire Broadway career, and it was very, very difficult for me. And I could have done the second show, but again, to not have everyone scrambling around, I thought it would be best to say, "Okay, I'll bow out of the show tonight."

BB: Was the understudy actually prepared?  Because I can imagine her saying: "I won't get on stage, it's Orfeh!"

ORFEH: No, no, no!  Actually they weren't prepared, and that's why our stage manager was like, "Let's give everyone a long time to get to this," because I've never, ever called out, and I've taken a couple vacations -- not a couple – a vacation, and I have had pre-scheduled outs, maybe two in all.  I had one during Trailer Park; otherwise, I was the kid who wouldn't go to sleep when I was with the adults because I knew I'd be missing something.  So I just have that chip of: "I'm not missing something, I don't want to miss anything!" I never missed school, it's just the way I am. 

BB: You had a pop career going on.

ORFEH: I did.

BB: -- Awhile ago, before all this.

ORFEH: Yes.

BB: What would you say is the biggest difference in how you find yourself treated as an artist between the pop world and the Broadway world?

ORFEH: Oh, you see that's not a fair question, I'll tell you why: because -- not to say we're not treated well on Broadway, because we are treated very, very well on Broadway -- but when you're a recording artist and you're having a modicum of success, it's really, really royal treatment all the way.  So I'm very spoiled.  It was all first class, and stretch limos, and fancy restaurants, and big shot executives, so, you know, just four star hotels all the way. 

BB: I applaud you for walking all the way over here through the rain. 

ORFEH: Yeah, I know!  We just -- we didn't know there was another way of life.  I was young, I was very, very young when I broke out into the entertainment world and the music business; everyone I was coming up were treated the same way -- part of the whole package, and part of the whole way it's presented.

BB: I understand, and sometimes when they treat you that way, you don't know that anything else is going.

ORFEH: Absolutely, because it's all: "Look over here, look over here!" It is, it is, and we did get taken advantage of, grossly and horribly.  But while I was blissfully ignorant, it was a really great time.  It's only in hindsight that I can sit here, and fill a "Behind The Music" segment for hours, and make everybody weep, but who wants to hear that?  That's not fun for anybody.

BB: So performing onstage for theater versus for pop: what are the differences, what do you like about each, what do you dislike about each?

ORFEH: There's nothing I dislike about performing live, so that's an easy answer.  As far as audience capacity, there were nights, when we were on certain tours, that there was a big MTV tour we were on, and we sometimes ended up with 30,000 people.  So when people are like: "Well, how come you don't have any stage fright?  How come you're not nervous when you play the Palace?"  -- Listen, I've played two of the biggest houses on Broadway, I've played the Minskoff, and I'm now at the Palace, and people are like "Why aren't you nervous?" [The answer is]: because this is one section of what I am used to looking out at, and I really love the immediacy of live audiences, because you can gauge -- you can gain your energy from them.  I'd say rock concert audiences are certainly more raucous, unless you are in Japan -- they are very polite.  It's kind of the same -- you know, audiences are audiences,  and you just hope, really, that you do right by them.  It's always just trying to kind of make everyone happy. 

BB: Backing up a bit to your Tony-nominated turn here, and hopefully Tony win here.

ORFEH: Oh!  Pressure, pressure, pressure!

BB: The song, "Ireland", that we just played, seems to me to be very much crafted to take advantage of the unique strengths of your voice.  Was that the case, did [Lawrence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin, Legally Blonde composers] write this for you?

ORFEH: No, they didn't write this song for me at all!  I was not really in line to be in this show, honestly.  So, I would love to say that they wrote it for me -- I think that along the way, Larry and Nell were very generous with allowing me to do my thing with the song. I will say that they allowed the crafting and the structuring of the vocal performance to go along with what I am, what my skill set is, but no,they didn't write that song for me.  Once we got in there and I was cast, "Bend and Snap" was more tailored to my skill set, but that existed as well.  I came on board very, very late.

BB: When did you come in on the show?

ORFEH: Michael Rupert ["Professor Callahan] and I were two of the last cast members to join the show,and neither of us had done any of the previous workshops or anything; we were literally hired at the eleven-and-a-half hour.  No, as much as I would like to say they wrote that song for me, they did not, but again, they were very, very trusting with me singing it; they let me have my way with it.

BB: I thought you gave a definite, unique spin on the character.

ORFEH: Thank you.

BB: What was the process of you getting into the show?  Who did you have to jump hoops for, what were the hurdles?

ORFEH: Oh man, there were a lot of hurdles.  There were a lot of hurdles because, clearly I cannot change my physical stature, and I couldn't gain forty pounds in three months.  It was a very long and arduous audition proces. t was repeatedly, you know, bringing me back, bringing me back.  And I think they just felt that I was the person who could be the perfect marriage between the comedy and the singing voice, so I think that after a while, after a long while, I think they got over what their preconceptions of the physicality of what Paulette was, and they just said, "Okay, let's run with this and see what happens".

BB: Do you think they made the right call?

ORFEH: I hope so!  I hope they think they made the right call now, you know with my Grammy nomination!

BB: You're never going to let me forget that are you?

ORFEH: No, I'm trying to put it out there!  I'm trying to make it happen, I'm trying to conjure it. 

BB: Now I understand that you might be interested in trying to put together another solo album and going back to that.

ORFEH: Oh yeah, I do. It's my dream, it's my goal, it's everything I gear my life towards. But doing eight shows a week, honestly, if you're going to do it justice, and if you're going to show up like I do every day, it's not that easy to go into the studio until three, four o'clock in the morning -- that's when you make records, that's when the producers and the mixers and everybody work and the writers.  So, it's not easy to do it while you're in a show.  So I'm hoping, at some point, I can pick back up where I left off 106 years ag.  It's always my dream, but, I get to do cast recordings, -- I did Trailer Park and Legally Blonde -- so I kind of get to do a little bit of that, and get into the studio and exercise that muscle too.

BB: One last thing -- it's been talked about a lot so we don't have to go into a lot of depth, but just for our listeners who don't know -- how much fun is it getting to work with your husband onstage every night?

ORFEH: It is honestly -- and it's not a cliché and it's not a line -- Andy's such an unbelievably charming and wonderful human being, and I am very, very lucky he was brave enough to marry me, so he's got such a sparkle and a twinkle in his eye and it really -- it's really an effortless, effortless thing.  It's really the most effortless part of my job, to get to see him.  You see, I can't even stop giggling when I think about it.  But we've done five shows together, so we have a really instant, effortless chemistry between us.  And it's the best part, it's the best part to know that my husband gets to not be my husband eight times a week, and I get to fall in love with him all over again every night.

BB: All right, well it's always wonderful to talk with someone who is Tony nominated, Grammy nominated, Emmy nominated.

ORFEH: Yes!

BB: And on top of that

TOGETHER: Oscar nominated!

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You can listen to this interview and many other great features for free on Broadway Bullet vol 118. Subscribe for free so you don't miss an episode.

 or MP3 Feed with XML

Second photo courtesey of www.orfeh.com

 


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