BWW Interview: Lawson Young of DISNEY ON CLASSIC at Tokyu Theatre Orb
Originally from Saratoga Springs, New York, performer Lawson Young and I met on tour last fall in Tokyo, where she played Rapunzel in Disney On Classic's Tangled. Now Lawson returns to Japan for DOC's Spring Gala! This Broadway veteran discusses what it's like to sing with a 60-piece orchestra and the challenges of working in a foreign country.
1) How did the opportunity to work with Disney On Classic come about?
I knew about DOC because several performers were alumni of my alma mater, the College-Conservatory Of Music at the University Of Cincinnati. However, I decided to audition because of a recommendation from a friend who had done the tour.
2) What was your audition process like?
I had an initial audition where I sang my own material for Tony Clements, the director of DOC, and then I had a long day of callbacks where the entire Japanese creative team was in the room. In the callback, I sang the material from Tangled, including the duets and group numbers.
3) DOC audiences know you from the 2017 fall tour as Rapunzel in Tangled. What can they look forward to hearing you perform this spring?
This spring I will portray the role of Giselle from Disney's Enchanted.
4) What is your process in preparing the material? Do you listen to the originals or consciously avoid them?
Yes, I listen very closely to the originals! I have a different process for different roles, but Disney approaches material so purposefully and specifically, that I do everything in my power to stay true the original - with my own little flair!
5) You perform in halls of various sizes with a 60-piece orchestra. What are some of the cultural and technical challenges you face?
It is all magical! I have had the opportunity to sing with much smaller orchestras but the first time I heard The Orchestra Japan play I was moved to tears. Singing with The Orchestra Japan is one of the most special experiences of my life. When it comes to different theater designs or sound systems, it's necessary to be adaptable. There are going to be differences from theater to theater, such as the amount of feedback or echo, which is why we have a soundcheck and rehearsal before every performance. There are also moments of confusion because of the language barrier. For example, in rehearsal a directorial note could be translated through four different people before it reaches you. However, the members of The Orchestra Japan are incredibly patient and want to help us learn. And our producer never leaves us feeling ill-prepared for a performance. We always know what to expect and the slight changes keep us on our toes!
6) How does working as Principal Vocalist differ from other chapters in your career?
It's definitely a different muscle. Some of the material is better suited for a concert-style performance but last fall I approached Tangled very similarly to how I prepare for a role in a book musical. There are different details to negotiate when you're working as a Principal Vocalist. For example, audience inclusion and holding a microphone, while dressed in a ball gown is actually quite fitting for a Disney princess!
7) What is your relationship with Disney (the music, movies, and characters)? Have you always been a fan of the genre?
Let's put it this way: I am wearing a Cinderella costume in all of my childhood home videos.
8) You worked on Rapunzel last fall and sang "Part Of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. Now you're diving into Giselle. What do you think makes you a natural fit for Alan Menken's spunky ingénues?
I'm actually honored to answer this because I love the way all three of these characters see the world in such a positive light. I connect with their willingness to learn and the youthful, generous way in which they include others on their journey. For Rapunzel, it's a bunch of thugs, for Giselle, it's the Central Park denizens, for Ariel, it's her fishy friends; and for me it's the Japanese audience members.
9) How did you maintain your stamina while touring this past fall? Any tips and tricks you plan to activate this spring?
Regardless of where I am in the world or what job I have, my trick is the same: Sleep, sleep, sleep! In addition, in Japan I found that the best way to maintain my stamina was to watch a lot of Terrace House (aka The Real World, Japanese style).
10) Any stand out venues or favorite moments on stage?
Throughout the fall tour, we performed at over thirty different theaters however, I will never forget performing at the Tokyo International Forum. The theater holds over 5,000 people and we played to capacity. That was an out of body experience! At the end of the show the Concert Master steps downstage and leads the orchestra, singers, and audience in a Japanese sing-a-long of "When You Wish Upon A Star." The audience waves glow sticks as we all create music together. It is a true Disney magical moment.
11) What were your favorite sights/experiences in Japan?
My favorite place in Japan is the Bikan Historical Quarter in a city called Kurashiki in the Okayama Prefecture. There is a narrow canal lined with traditional Japanese buildings that are hundreds of years old, a preserved window into older Western architecture. Everywhere you go there is more to learn about the history and culture of Japan.
12) What are you most looking forward to about returning to Japan?
While the history, food, and culture in Japan have stolen my heart, I am most excited to reconnect with the members of The Orchestra Japan. They are hard working and supportive. It is my honor to share the stage and see the world with them.
Follow Lawson on social media: @lawsonmyoung and check out her website: lawsonyoung.com