BWW Interview: Chatting with Tari Kelly as Countess Lily in ANASTASIA on Tour
The story of ANASTASIA is one of mystery, sadness, joy and romance. The audience is taken on a journey with a young girl who doesn't know her past. She wants to know where she came from and where she really belongs. As ANASTASIA continues to tour throughout North America, BWW had a chance to catch up with actress Tari Kelly who plays the part of Countess Lily.
Tell us how you got interested in performing in the first place.
It's actually interesting I ever ended up being a performer at all as I was a very shy child. I started dance classes at five and when I was around 13 a local community theater needed dancers for their production of Anything Goes. I auditioned at the urging of my mom who thought it would be fun for me. That community was so accepting, so encouraging, so fun - they truly brought me out of my shell. I couldn't wait to be in another show.
When did you know that performing was your passion?
As much as I loved performing in the ensemble of the community theater productions, it wasn't until I landed my first lead in high school at 14 - Polly Browne in THE BOYFRIEND - that I really caught the bug. Once that happened I became obsessed with musical theater and decided I had to pursue it as a career.
You've had the opportunity to be in a lot of shows both on Broadway and on tour. What are some of the standout roles you've played?
Well, my very favorite role I've ever played is Audrey in the First National Tour of Little Shop of Horrors opposite Anthony Rapp as Seymour. It was a dream come true and continues to be one of the highlights of my career. Another show I loved was End of The Rainbow which I did regionally at the Arvada Center in Colorado. I played Judy Garland and it was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I've ever had as a performer. And I won a Henry Award for best actress which was quite encouraging! Lastly I'll say Groundhog Day on Broadway. That show was, and still is, so special to me. I played 3 totally different roles which made me feel like I was doing sketch comedy every night. I've never been more exhausted or more fulfilled as I was doing that show. It broke my heart that it didn't last longer.
Now you are in ANASTASIA which is so exciting. Tell us a bit about how you landed the role of Countess Lily?
Believe it or not auditioning for this show was one of the quickest and least stressful experiences I've ever had in my career! I got the audition for Lily through my manager Steve Maihack at 44 West Entertainment. It consisted of a cut of Land of Yesterday and 2 scenes - Lily's scene with the Dowager and the one with Vlad before Countess and the Common Man. My first audition was on a Thursday for the creative team which went very well and I was brought in for a final callback for all the powers that be the next Monday. By that Thursday I was offered the role.
What are some things you've learned about yourself as you have played the role of Countess Lily?
I've learned that I really love doing comedy and making people laugh. To have crafted, along with my comedy partner Ed Staudenmeyer who plays Vlad, a ton of different comedic beats and bits that serve the story as well as tickling the funny bone has been an awesome learning experience. I've also learned that comedy can hurt! I've gotta be careful and stay mindful when I'm doing all those physical shenanigans. The Bruises I had in the beginning of the run were no joke.
If you had not gotten into show business, what do you think you would be doing?
I can't imagine my life without theater, so I would probably be a teacher of the arts. Or maybe I'd run a doggie day care! I'm crazy for dogs... But even if I didn't do this "business of show" for a living, I would be doing theater in some capacity. Maybe even running a community theater where a shy, young dancer could learn to come out of her shell and find her path in life.
ANASTASIA comes to Austin, Texas from February 12-17, 2019 at Bass Concert Hall. Don't miss out. Purchase your tickets at Texas Performing Arts.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Murphy