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Interview: ELF: THE MUSICAL at Palace Theater

Interview: ELF: THE MUSICAL at Palace Theater

Thomas puts her best foot forward while playing Jovie in ELF: THE MUSICAL

Most Christmas shows seem to follow a simple pattern: Someone doesn't have that festive spirit meets someone who does, a miracle happens, and the bah humbuger sees the joy in the holidays.

Perhaps ELF: THE MUSICAL, which will be performed Dec. 13-18 at the Palace Theater (34 W. Broad Street in downtown Columbus), isn't that different. Only the miracle doesn't come in the form of three ghosts, magical pixies, or the romantic finger of fate. For Tieisha Thomas, who plays Buddy the Elf's love interest Jovie in the national tour of ELF, the miracle is that she is even a part of this show. And the finger of fate came in the form of a severe tear of her Achilles tendon four years ago.

"It wasn't like someone pushed me or that it was some huge, crazy accident," Thomas said in an interview from South Carolina. "I put my foot down to cross the street and I tore my Achilles.

"(Because of the accident), I ended up sitting on my butt for the whole entire summer doing nothing. All I had to do was think."

What Thomas thought about mostly was her career in theater, which had seemingly stalled out. Prior to her injury, she contemplated giving up chasing her dream.

A native New Yorker, Thomas fell in love with Broadway after seeing THE LION KING and landed lead roles in GREASE (playing Sandy) and THE WIZ (Dorothy). For high school, Thomas attended the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. (If that name sounds familiar, it is because it is the same high school the television show FAME is based on.) Thomas earned a bachelor's degree in theater arts from SUNY Buffalo State and was one of the first Young Artist Competitions winners to have a chance to sing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Yet freshly out of college, Thomas became disenchanted with the grind of trying to land a role on Broadway.

"I didn't quite know how to put my foot into the business," Thomas said. "I would find myself talking myself out of going on auditions, (thinking to myself), 'I don't know how to do that' or 'Maybe I'm not ready.' My fear was controlling me.

"I worked a lot of weird jobs in the food industry and in retail. I worked in a flower shop and then I stumbled into teaching (theater), which was kind of like my way of expressing my artistic soul at the same time."

"But still it wasn't enough for me."

Then she tore her ACL and spent the summer relearning how to walk. Her lack of mobility gave her lots of time to ponder the future. She began reading Shonda Rhimes, The Year of Yes. That motivational book spoke to her.

"(After reading The Year of Yes), I was like 'I don't wanna be in this position again. How can I get out of this? How can I go after my dreams?'" Thomas said. "When you are saying yes, you don't let fear stop you."

"I started writing down what I wanted for myself and believing I already had achieved it. I saw an audition for a show, you know, and I went for it."

Thomas landed a role as one of the muses in HERCULES which stoked her fires to do more and more.

"It was insane, insane in the best possible way," she said. "You're around these incredibly talented people. I told myself, 'You have to find a way to make this work.'"

When she saw there was an audition for ELF: THE MUSICAL, Thomas thought she would be perfect for the role of Emily Hobbs, the matron of the house that Buddy stays in. After she had run through Emily's lines, one of the directors asked her to also read for Jovie.

There was one small problem. Thomas has never seen the movie, ELF and knew nothing of the character made famous by actress Zooey Deschanel.

"He said, 'would you mind reading for Jovie?' I paused and he asked, 'Do you know who Jovie is?'" she said laughing. "I was like, 'I'm not familiar with that character.' He was so sweet. He gave me a rundown of the character. When he finished, I thought, 'I know this character. I feel I am just like her.'

"I walked out of there not know what was going to happen, if anything. Then they called a couple of weeks later and said I got the part."

Even after she earned the role of Jovie, Taylor decided to abstain from watching the Will Ferrell Christmas classic because she didn't want it to interfere with the development of her portrayal.

"I just wanted to set myself apart (from Deschanel's version of the character) and do my own thing," she said. "I can definitely relate to her cynicism. She is around this guy, who is about love and Christmas time while she is a bit jaded. I like how ELF shows if you give yourself an opportunity and are open to the ways of others, hopefully you'll discover love and make your own kind of Christmas joy."

ELF: THE MUSICAL will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13-15, 8 p.m. on Dec. 16-17 as well as matinees 2 p.m. Dec. 17 and 1 p.m. Dec. 18. Its final performance is 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 18.

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