BWW Interview: Teri Hansen as Madame Baurel in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
Many may have heard of the movie AN AMERICAN IN PARIS that starred Gene Kelly and featured such songs as "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise," "S Wonderful," and "I Got Rhythm." Well, the recent Broadway hit of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS took some of the story, some of the songs, and added to it. What was created was a story that pays tribute to great shows of days gone by as well as adding new parts to make an extraordinary musical. As AN AMERICAN IN PARIS tours around North America, it is preparing to make a stop in Austin, Texas at the Bass Concert Hall from May 29-June 3, 2018. BWW caught up with actress Teri Hansen who plays Madame Baurel. She shared with BWW just what it was that brought her to be part of the amazing tour of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS.
How did you first get interested in performing?
I was a young girl who lost my dad. My dad worked for the Detroit Lions and I was very much interested in being a chef. When I toured with Marvin Hamlisch when I would sing my first solo, he would say, "Aren't you glad she didn't become a chef?" I was paying for school myself and I had a wonderful choir teacher. I took choir for half a semester in high school. He told me he thought I could get a scholarship for voice. I auditioned. I got a scholarship. One thing lead to another. I got my master's degree. I was in the Houston Opera Studio at the Houston Grand Opera. Then, I starred in Francesca Zambello's film of Kurt Weill's STREET SCENE. I starred in that as Rose and it was shown on the Bravo Channel and when I was in Germany it was viewed, and Hal Prince saw it. I arrived in New York to begin my opera career. He got in touch with me and said he was interested in me doing Magnolia in his production of SHOWBOAT. Ruth Mitchell gave me a call directly and I told her, I said, "I don't know who Harold Prince is and I have no interest in doing musical theater. I'm here to start my opera career." She said, "Dear, do you have an agent?" I said, "Yes." She said, "Would you have him give me a call?" Well, you can imagine. I got a chewing out from agent who was Brett Adams at the time. The following week I was on the Broadway stage on the set of SHOWBOAT singing my audition. There was a group of people sitting out in the audience. I did my audition. Walked off the stage, walked back on the stage and I said, "Excuse me, who is Harold Prince?" Hal stood up in his infamous way and he said, "Well, I'm Harold Prince. I think you're marvelous." I did that tour for three and a half years. London, we were doing nine months in Vancouver, Toronto and that's what got me started in the biz.
And now you are on the tour with AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Tell us more about how you got that role and a little bit about the show itself.
I was doing the North American tour of Jack O'Brien's THE SOUND OF MUSIC playing the role of Elsa, the Baroness. We were closing after two years on the road. I was at the Kennedy Center and my agent got a call. She said, "How would you like to do Madame Baurel in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS?" That show was going on in New York when we were on the road so I'd not seen the production. Of course, I had heard how wonderful it was and was familiar with the fact that it had won four Tony Awards, that Christopher Wheeldon - that everyone talked about how wonderful he was. Natasha Katz, who had also done lighting for our SOUND OF MUSIC had done lighting for AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and won a Tony award for that as well. I said, "I didn't get to see it but it sounds swell to me." They sent me that materials and I did an audition on my iPhone and sent it in. About four days later, my agent called me and said, "You booked it. You're going out." It's just been dreamy. To go from Rogers and Hammerstein to George and Ira Gershwin, it's just been wonderful. And of course, the music is just incredible. It has "The Men I Love," "But Not for Me," "S Wonderful." It's just a glorious score, a wonderful story and it's about what I call my lover. It's about Paris. I always say New York is my husband and Paris is my lover. It is a glorious homage to Paris after the liberation from the Nazis in World War II. And of course, so many people are familiar with the Gene Kelly film, and they always think, "Oh, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. It's been on Broadway before, but it never has. This is a brand-new production and of course the Gershwin estate worked with Christopher, Rob Fischer, all these wonderful people in developing the show. They've really fleshed it out and, of course, it's got a fantastic book by Craig Lucas who did LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA. It's three men who are in love with the same woman and uses Paris as a framing device. People just absolutely love it. It's beautiful to watch. It's an inspiring story and, of course, the score; George and Ira Gershwin. Here we are a hundred years since they got started with their wonderful music.
What are some of the things you love the most about being on tour so much?
It's a crazy life being on tour but it's a wonderful life because you get to meet all sorts of people and see your family and friends. You go to these wonderful theaters along the way. It's a really wonderful life and I'm very grateful for it. Also, experiencing the various cultures throughout North America. We just were in Toronto for five weeks which was heavenly and, of course, you know, California. I'm from the Midwest so going home to Detroit is always wonderful. I lived in Houston for many years. I went to school in Florida so it's just a way to reconnect with family and friends and also get to know new people and experience new cuisine. We were in New Orleans right before Mardi Gras so that was fantastic. It's a wonderful way to experience all of the cultural soup that is the United States and Canada.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking about getting into the business?
The most important thing, and it sounds like a cliché: To thine own self be true. It's just, be yourself. Follow your heart. Don't listen to the naysayers. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting supportive people. Be positive and proactive and life will unfold before you. It will take you exactly where you should be. That's not always on the stage. Sometimes it's behind the scenes or doing charity work that the Broadway community does. BCEFA (Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids) is such a great organization. The Broadway Dreams organization. There's so many ways to participate in our theatrical community as a writer, as a composer, as a set designer, costume designer, director, choreographer. I would also like to especially encourage women. I recently saw a graph about women in theater and how it is disproportioned slanted towards men. Nothing against our wonderful male counterparts. I just want to especially encourage women as executive directors in theaters and directors of shows and choreographers and conductors. I want to say for them - go for it. Now's the time. Just believe in yourself and it'll happen.
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Murphy