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BWW Interview: Petite Firecracker, Lauren Molina, Stars in Cleveland Playhouse's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

If you had asked Lauren Molina during her high school days in Detroit what she was going to be when she grew up, the self-described "brainiac," would probably have answered, "A doctor or a vet." Though not thinking of a life behind the footlights, she did attend arts summer programs at Northwestern, Yale and NYU.

The daughter of a father who is the Assistant Principal Bass player with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and a mother who is a former dancer and is now a Professor at Marygrove College, Lauren finally decided that acting was "her thing" while attending the University of Michigan, which is noted for its top-tier musical theatre program.

When she went to New York to "make it big," she was lucky enough to be in the mix for a role in the revival of SWEENEY TODD. The production required the performers who played musical instruments. Fortunately, the role of Johanna was written for an actress who played the cello. A trained cellist, Lauren was a natural for the role. As she said in a recent interview, "Two years out of school and I had a major part in a Broadway show. Wow!"

Since her debut, she has been in ROCK OF AGES (off and on-Broadway), TEN CENTS A DANCE (with Donna McKechnie), and THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE. She was a feature singer at the LADIES WHO SING SONDHEIM CONCERT with Barbara Cook and Patti Lupone, was a soloist at the TRIBUTE FOR ANGELA LANSBURY with Tyne Daly and Christine Ebersole, and was a back-up singer for Sarah Brightman on her LaLUNA TOUR.

Lauren won the Helen Hayes Award (sponsored by Theatre Washington) for her portrayal of Cunegonde in CANDIDE, in which she was dubbed "a petite firecracker." The show is one of her favorite musicals. She stated, "though the book has problems, the story is witty and meaningful." She was also named as "One of 30 Under 30" by

To what does she credit her success? She said that she "tries to bring out whatever the role calls for." She realizes that she "is not in the field for praise or money, but for the love she has for the theatre" and her hope is that "she can inspire and make audience members think."

Why is she doing THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS in Cleveland? She stated, "You can't do only New York theatre. It's important to do dream roles and playing Audrey is one of those roles." "Though Audrey is physically and mentally abused, and not overly bright, she has a strong heart."

"LITTLE SHOP is irreverent. It is sweet and beautiful." It sends a message "that someone can rise from nothing and gain great acclaim, even if it takes creativity and blood." "It's a parody of the monster movies of the 50s." "The plant is representative of greed." There are three sub-themes: "society puts pressures on people, what is needed is love, and money can't buy happiness."

Besides her acting career, Lauren is a member of "The Skivvies." She and Nick Cearley are a duet who do "sexy explosion of satire and sultry."

The duo met about thirteen years ago when they were doing a children's theatre show. They became best friends and decided they wanted to entertain together. They decided "to take pop songs and strip them down musically."

The music features stripped down arrangements and, and so do their bodies. He wears bikini briefs and she wears a bra and panties.

They have been performing all over the world. Sometimes the audience doesn't get the clothing message. For example, she stated, "It gets people to look at you. Once they hear us, they will stay for the content. A woman, however once said, "You are so talented, you don't have to take off your clothes." "They don't get it. Nothing is lewd or raunchy. It's like a big pj party. It's all about the music."

Does she ever get self-conscious? She paused and said: "There is no room for me to feel self-conscious. I believe that no matter your shape or size, you can overcome the media's message of being ashamed if you are not perfect."

"The Skivvies" use a multitude of instruments, among them the ukulele, and glockenspiel. Why those? "They are quirky instruments...everything on uke sounds happy or at least bittersweet...there is a playfulness to it...take rock, hip-hop...hard core rock on a uke...comedy, quirky sound."

Where does Lauren see herself in five years? She would like to be doing Broadway, performing as "The Skivvies," and in a variety sketch television show. "Oh yes, and fostering kittens and living with my boyfriend."

Lauren is very impressed with the Allen Theatre and PlayhouseSquare complex. She looks forward to performing before local audiences and "making strong choices on stage" and "getting the character [of Audrey] to pop."

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From This Author Roy Berko