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Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below

The singer-songwriter openly reflects on her life and career ahead of her solo concert debut.

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo Credit: Marc J. Franklin

Roughly twenty minutes into Broadway's MRS. DOUBTFIRE, the recent musical based on the hit 1993 film, an exasperated Lydia Hillard defiantly belts "What the Hell." Though sung in response to the 15-year-old's angst over having a "creepy old lady in a hideous blouse" take on babysitting duties in place of her father, redefining her family as she knows it, and sending her into an impenetrable spiral as a result, the words can easily apply to her portrayer, 22-year-old Analise Scarpaci, especially considering all that's happened to her - and the show - in the last few years.

"I never could've predicted my life!" she says, with a laugh. "I thought I would go to school for four years and then study to be a dance captain! That was the goal. I had no idea that I would ever be a principal in a Broadway show, and especially not so soon. That was the last thing on my mind."

Unfortunately, that dream, however unfathomable, was short-lived; following the initial two-year shutdown at the onset of the pandemic and an additional pause brought on by the Omicron variant in January, the show closed permanently last May, leaving Scarpaci to face new challenges and forge a new, as-yet unforeseeable path for herself.

"I hate the unknown," she says, with a laugh, "which is funny, because I recognize I chose an entire business based in the unknown. So, I'm still trying to live with that. That's how you know I love [the business], when I base my entire life on something [rooted in something] I hate."

"If you had told me, when I graduated high school," she pointedly elaborates, "that I would be leaving college my sophomore year to book a Broadway show, and then it was going to be shut down for two years because of a global pandemic, and then open again, but close again because of [Omicron], and then open a third time, but only for a month... I never would've believed you in a million years."

Nonetheless, she's grateful for the experience, and all that it taught her will stay with her forever.

"The character of Lydia changed so much throughout the process," not the least of which was aided by Scarpaci's own emotional growth and maturity throughout the two-year pause. "She grew with me as I grew and matured as I matured."

Essentially, "what she has done for me is something that I never thought a role ever could." Citing the sophisticated Mary Magdalene in a high school production of JCS as the last role that changed her this dramatically, Scarpaci endlessly lists the myriad of ways in which Lydia has influenced her views on life, from how she sees herself to her family to her friends to her relationships... and how - though she's no longer playing the role - she still builds upon those values when working on herself today.

Bewildered, with her head in her hands, she confesses, "I never imagined that a 15-year-old could do that!"

Still, whatever catharsis her counterpart allowed her, it didn't (initially) help much when COVID hit.

In truth, the pandemic did little to quell her aforementioned fears, but the triple-threat took it in stride, using the pause (and the subsequent closings) to find herself, return to school and songwriting, and ultimately, record her own album.

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo courtesy of Analise Scarpaci

"I was bored. It's as simple as that," Scarpaci says, of the rationale behind picking up her guitar and writing anew. But, as the shutdown went on, "music became my therapy." Today, "it's just my way to write my thoughts down on a page and let my feelings out. If I'm feeling particularly irritated, or angry, or happy, or upset about the day, I go to my book and I write lyrics and put down a couple of dummy chords and I write a song." In other words, she considers it a way for her to navigate the world, adding, "I have so many songs that I don't even want anyone to know about. They're not meant for anybody; they're just meant for me."

Still, her publicly released music has proved popular enough to allow the burgeoning songwriter to amass a following... even if she doesn't believe it.

"I was coaching a student a couple months ago and one of the songs she wanted to [work on] was one of mine." Citing the power of social media (and, to boot, some terrifically pitch-perfect pipes), she says, "it's so cool how people just know."

Of note, despite however private she claims to be, when asked what terrifies her about writing her own tunes, Scarpaci wastes no time in giving a definitive, declarative answer, exclaiming, "Second verses!" almost immediately. ("I've already said what I had to say in the first verse and the chorus!" she goes on. "It's like... what do I do now?!")

So, it may seem surprising that, in an uncertain, ever-evolving industry - and due to a change in course spurred on by a world-altering virus and a closed Broadway show - she's now embarking on her own "second verse" with a debut solo concert titled PATHETIC LITTLE DREAMER, a moniker plucked from her album of the same name, at Midtown hotspot 54 Below.

Even so, ever the optimist, she's up for the challenge.

"I love the atmosphere... I love the staff... I love the crowd. And I love that it was [originally] a club," she says, of the venue, in which she's appeared multiple times previously as a guest performer. "My parents used to go to Studio 54... that was their era, and a big part of their life....As a performer, to know that I'm performing at a place where my parents used to go when they were my age, and now I'm singing there (with my own solo show!)... it's so cool how things come around full circle."

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo courtesy of Analise Scarpaci

Born from a desire to properly celebrate her album ("The day it was released, I tested positive for COVID, DOUBTFIRE had just opened, other shows were shutting down because of Omicron, everything was literally such a mess") and a perfectly-timed offer from 54 Below's Jen Tepper, the concert, helmed by her stalwart vocal coach and record producer, the Grammy-nominated Michael J. Moritz, Jr., aims to show Scarpaci as she is, and how an amalgamation of experiences onstage and off made her who she is today.

"Essentially, I want to give my album the [release] party it never had and what better time to do that than right before my birthday?!" the singer laughs. "But I'm really excited for people to see this show. Especially because I think a lot of people will expect to see one version of me, when I actually have a lot of layers that people don't really know about... even people who are close to me."

Padded with pop songs, Broadway faves, and some tunes "just because" thrown in for good measure (and don't forget the very special guests!), she hopes to maintain a light and peppy atmosphere, while careful to ensure the audience doesn't lose sight of her central message: "Don't judge a book by its cover."

As for its title? "I knew that 'Pathetic Little Dreamer' was going to be something that people would question." As Scarpaci sees it, "a pathetic little dreamer is someone who daydreams a hell of a lot but doesn't take as many risks as they should [to do anything about it]."

It's a concept that runs deep through her album and her life, its significance made all the more powerful by the fact that it's how she sees herself: "I spend a lot of time dreaming instead of doing." With that idea now at the forefront of her concert, she hopes to reach other PLDs, as she calls them, like her, stating, "Sometimes we're just dreamers who don't let our dreams become realities, and that's okay... but we owe it to ourselves to try."

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo Credit: Matt Murphy
Package Design: Robbie Rozelle

On the album, the other tracks, which draw heavily from the musical styles of Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor and Billy Joel, also aid in chronicling her journey through life thus far, maneuvering through love, loss, and maturation, both in and out of the pandemic, as only a PLD can.

"All of these songs represent me as a human being, and writing [them] helped me to learn a lot about myself," she says, certain aspects of which, as she teased, she promises to unearth throughout the duration of the evening.

One of which being that despite her upholding of what may seem like an atypical day-to-day grind, she wholeheartedly considers herself your typical girl next door. "Let me tell you, there's nothing more humbling than waking up in your childhood bedroom," she asserts, on the subject, invoking another example of pandemic-induced change. In particular, among a plethora of other topics, she revels in offering audition tips, championing the Giants, or sharing her latest skincare regimen; she's also down to blab about the Bachelorette, screlt MEAN GIRLS in her bedroom, and, of course, love on her extensive Italian family.

"My parents are so supportive," she gushes. "They love everything about my journey. And the rest of my family is insane and so supportive as well. If I wasn't surrounded by such a supportive group, I could never [survive] this industry. You need that immensely. [Without it], I would never have the strength."

Notably, her parents have also always made it a point to ensure she was the one driving her decisions.

"You call the shots," she says, of their honorable advice. "Whether you're 10 years old or 40 years old, if there's ever a time you want to stop... [if] you feel tired or you want to take a break, it has to come from you." Unlike certain persuasive mothers portrayed on stage or in film (or reality, as it were - "'cause some people are really like that," Scarpaci notes. "Freedom of choice is not always the case"), "my parents have always made sure that my career was and is [driven by] my own choices."

Taking that to heart, while she's continuing to audition, with a growing desire to explore social media and marketing, she's recently taken up a Content Creation position with popular digital ticketing app TodayTix. Popping up on various cabaret stages, partaking in classes (both as an instructor and a student), and furthering her education in the interim have also all helped to keep her sane and afloat, and she couldn't be more grateful.

"Having something to distract me and motivate me and take me away from the anxieties of the world at this time has been very helpful," she says, with a (telling) nervous laugh.

She's also a fierce advocate for Crohn's disease, having lived with the condition herself since 2010, her voracity topped only by her insistence in relaying that it doesn't and shouldn't deter her - or anyone else navigating an invisible illness or other challenge - from following her dreams.

"It really put my life into perspective at a very young age," she says, of her diagnosis. "It matured me... made me push through anything and allowed me to realize there are worse things than not getting a job or an audition... and, in some cases, there are even worse things in life than Crohn's."

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo Credit: Matt Murphy

ANALISE ANSWERS

We supply a sentence; she fills in the blank.

The showtunes that best describe me are... "Happily Ever After" (ONCE UPON A MATTRESS), "Funny Girl" (FUNNY GIRL), & "Someone is Waiting" (COMPANY).

The showtune that best describes Lydia is... "I'd Rather Be Me" (MEAN GIRLS).

The showtune that every musical theatre student should know is... "Moments in the Woods" (INTO THE WOODS).

The show(s) that every aspiring actor should see is... BILLY ELLIOT and INTO THE WOODS.

The song(s) that pump me up before a show are... "Yeah 3x" by Chris Brown or "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull/Ne-Yo.

The song(s) that makes me feel like a badass are... "Bust Your Windows" (yes, the GLEE version) and "VEGAS" by Doja Cat.

Three people I admire are... my mom, Sara Bareilles, and Taylor Swift.

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo Credit: Matt Murphy

I think every New Yorker should... help keep the city clean and should visit... any Italian restaurant on Staten Island and see that it's worth the trip.

The most perfect New York meal is... a pasta dish eaten outside with a great view (preferably Casa Belvedere because you feel like you're in Italy).

A role I auditioned for that people would be surprised to know about is... I was originally up for Amanda Thripp in the early rounds of MATILDA and Bailee Madison's part in JUST GO WITH IT (also my first-ever movie audition).

Something that people would be surprised to know about me is... I would love to go indoor skydiving.

I feel the most invincible when I'm... blasting music in my room while belting and dancing to any song I could think of.

She spent the summer teaching extensively within such programs as Broadway Workshop and Broadway Artists Alliance, but she also coaches privately, which she proudly adds comes with its own unique set of benefits.

"The fact that I recently worked with children and that I was a child actor myself," Scarpaci explains. Pairing that with being a recent graduate - "I know all the techniques... it's not like I'm not qualified," she laughs - and having been active in the industry for more than half her life herself, "I know what people behind the table are looking for, especially from child and teenage actors."

It's a philosophy that's not only come in handy while teaching, but on the stage as well, like when working alongside child actors Jake Ryan Flynn and Avery Sell in DOUBTFIRE earlier this year.

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo Credit: Joseph Marzullo

In those cases, similar to teaching, as she explains, "it's so helpful to have had that experience of knowing what it's like to be in their shoes. In my opinion, if you don't, then you don't really know what they're going through, you don't know their schedules... their stresses... their tutors," she says, with a giggle. ("I'd be nowhere without them," she sidebars, proudly and appreciatively, speaking of hers, who stuck with her for three years through both her Broadway and touring experiences).

Most importantly, knowing the sacrifice that is required, both for the child actor and their families, Scarpaci, while fully aware of the lessons and benefits of her experiences, urges both current and aspiring young ones not to make the decision lightly. "Being that [pillar] to offer advice not only helps them... it honestly helps me, too. I'm glad to be a mentor for them the same way [other actors] have been for me."

It's this same "big sister" advisor-esque role that keeps her aglow when coaching.

"Coaching just makes me happy," she says, specifically noting her attraction to the "twinkle and glimmer of hope" in her students' eyes. "It's just so exciting to see theater through their eyes and see how much they love it."

"And I love getting to do for others what my teachers did for me," she says (crediting JV Mercanti, Eric Price and Chris York for stretching her beyond her comfort zone and allowing her to freely explore more mature roles), "which is, to find the artist inside of each individual person. Everyone has the power to sing if they want to, everybody has the power to dance if they want to, but who is this artist specifically? And that's what I aim to crack open and find... to help [them to] identify who they are."

Again, it's a concept she's exploring in her real life, as she grapples with next steps and allows herself, as she sings, to "get out of her head and finally make herself proud."

"I love playing roles that are the complete opposite from those I usually play," she states, citing "Goth girls" and "the girl next door" as two of her favorites. "Most of the time, it's the music [that attracts me]. If the music is good and it's in my sweet spot, it's a role I'll pursue."

And while she's made peace with the fact that DOUBTFIRE has come to an end, she's got some ideas should she come back to Broadway... or for anyone planning to tread the boards in the future: Despite the popular opinion, she's pushing for more family-friendly, cinema-based fare. "I love musicals that come from movies," she explains - noting she "can't wait" for the imminently-opening ALMOST FAMOUS - "specifically because it takes a story that audiences already know and love and expands on it." Given the already-established familiarity with the characters, "there's so much more to explore."

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

She would know, again, having played Lydia Hillard to critical acclaim.

"Getting the opportunity to play someone who I watched for years on the screen was so incredible," she continues, on the subject. "But because I was such a big fan of the movie, I didn't expect her part to expand. [Lydia in the musical] is such an extension of what she was in the movie. Her role was just so much more important in the divorce. And in the movie, you knew it was there, but you never saw it. I was happy to honor Lisa [Jakub] in that way and bring it to life. I never expected that to happen."

"I also never expected to open the show," she says, with a laugh. "We were in Seattle, tech-ing the opening number," she explains. "I was onstage alone, with a single spot on me. Jerry [Zaks] got on the God mic and said, 'Embrace it. Enjoy it.' And I remember thinking, 'I'm about to open a Broadway show, I'm onstage alone in a single spot, and Jerry Zaks is speaking to me.'"

That alone would've been enough. But "at that point, I had no idea what was coming [in terms of the song change]."

Indeed, during the lockdown, the entire song was rewritten, expanding Scarpaci's part even further. But the revision, which not only lengthened what she sang, but gave her the very first sung words of the show, was only the start of a series of surprises throughout her DOUBTFIRE experience - instances she has appropriately dubbed her "what the hell" moments.

The second came in the form of a massive theatrical bash used to promote Broadway's grand post-COVID return. "Seeing so many people from so many other shows who I literally hadn't seen in forever," coupled with the buzzy fervor of Broadway's highly anticipated rebound, was "electrifying" to say the least.

Not to mention the "literal stadium of people" cheering her on, thanks to the popularity of a viral video from BroadwayCon 2020 - another "what the hell" moment in itself - that primed people to love Lydia even before the pandemic hit.

"And FaceTiming with Kevin Jonas," she says, matter-of-factly, of a November night after a DOUBTFIRE show. "We cannot forget that. What the hell?!"

(A JoBros fan to the point of obsession, she was sidelined with COVID when Nick attended, and she's still not over it).

Other career highlights - from her first official Broadway entrance in A CHRISTMAS STORY to her equally "electric" debut in GODSPELL, CAST OF 2032 ("If I was never in another production again, I would've been fine," she gushes) to the night she first laid eyes on Billy Elliot himself, cementing her future and igniting her lifelong love affair with the theatrical - round out the memories that shaped her as a child.

"It's so weird to think about how my life has played itself out, you know?" she says, upon reflection, before - true to form - slapping her palms against the sides of her face.

So, looking back, what does she think her younger self would say? "I know she'd be extremely proud of my accomplishments. I also think part of her would be quite shocked to see how much I've changed."

Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
Photo courtesy of Analise Scarpaci

"When I was younger, I was very by the book," she admits. "And I've learned to now become a little more flexible." The genesis of which all began with an improv class she took in the summer of 2019 - "right before I went in for DOUBTFIRE. It was my worst nightmare because I hate thinking on the fly. But in the end, it taught me to just let go of [expectation] and be free."

In her subsequent audition, "because of this improv class, I didn't have that [persistent] voice in the back of my mind [saying], 'Your career is over if you don't get this job. You'll never work again.' And it was because of that [freedom], I believe, that I booked the job."

It's a newfound realization with which she's still coming to terms, as she continually reflects on how much she's changed from being a kid.

"I was just so unaware [back then] and full of wonder and hope... most of that fades away as you grow older. Life sinks in and you start to actually understand what's happening in the world. (My album was actually born from that feeling). So, even though I have changed a lot, I hope my younger self will accept me for who I am today and choose to reappear every once in a while."

No question she'll be present at the concert.

'Cause at her heart, Scarpaci's still that kid, chasing that pathetic little dream, proving the naysayers wrong, one "what the hell" moment at a time.

After all, her story's just begun.

Analise Scarpaci: PATHETIC LITTLE DREAMER will play 54 Below (254 W. 54th Street) on October 19th at 9:30pm, with a livestream option available for those unable to make it in person. For tickets, visit www.54below.com. For more on the album, visit www.broadwayrecords.com, and for more on Scarpaci, visit www.analisescarpaci.com.


"Pathetic Little Dreamer" ~ Music and Lyrics by Analise Scarpaci ~ Produced and Mixed by Michael J. Moritz, Jr. ~ Available on Broadway Records ~ © 2021


Matt Smith is a writer and theatre enthusiast based in New York. For more information or further inquiry, including additional writing samples, please visit mattsmiththeatre.com.



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Interview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 BelowInterview: Analise Scarpaci on Learning from Lydia, Paving New Paths, and Embracing 'Pathetic' at 54 Below
October 18, 2022

The 22-year-old burgeoning songwriter reflects on her life and career ahead of her debut solo show, PATHETIC LITTLE DREAMER - off her album of the same name - playing Midtown hotspot 54 Below on October 19th.