BWW Interviews: Melodie Madden Adams, A Life in the Theater


There came a moment during the recent Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre production of I'll Be Seeing You - Lydia Bushfield's romanticized musical take on life on the homefront during World War II - when an attractive young woman stepped onstage, looking for all the world as if she'd just stepped from the pages of a 1940s-era fashion magazine (thanks to costume designer extraordinaire Billy Ditty) and introduced herself as Margaret, a young debutante starting work in a munitions factory. As played by Melodie Madden Adams, Margaret was a warm, sincere young woman in love with a soldier all her own, who sang so beautifully that you felt transported - as if you were right there scrounging for ration coupons and using an eyebrow pencil to fashion seamed stockings on a shapely leg.

That Melodie Madden Adams, the actress and singer in question, gave a wonderful performance is unquestionable - and not unexpected - and her ease in becoming Margaret is a very good example of actress and character being perfectly in-sync: "I have an insane love for anything vintage," she explains, making the role perfect for her. In fact, when she's not onstage (she'll start rehearsals very soon for her role as Lenny in Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart at Boiler Room Theatre), she's busily attending to the affairs of her online company, And she thinks "one of the most underestimated talents in this town is Billy Ditty."

Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, and Little Rock, Arkansas, you'd expect Melodie Madden Adams to have a lilting Southern drawl, right? Well, guess again, "Because my Dad was strict on vowels, I have little Southern accent left." At Baylor University in Waco, Texas, she was a fashion design manger and was the only non-theater major in the college's traveling drama troupe.

This week, the spotlight falls on Adams as she answers our questions for "A Life in the Theatre." Read...and enjoy!

What was your first taste of theater? My parents took me to see a high school production of The Wizard of Oz when I was very young. I think Dorothy was a family friend so we got to meet the cast and I got their autographs. I remember telling my parents that night that I wanted to be Dorothy when I grew up.

What was your first real job (or "responsibility") in the theater? I was Molly in a traveling production of Annie for three years. I would come home from school, take a nap, and go to the theater at night fivenights a week. Then, on the weekends, the cast would all hop in a van and travel to other theaters to perform. It was during this production that I developed a deep love affair for makeup and hairspray. The smell of Ponds Cold Cream and Aqua Net still reminds me of my childhood.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in theater? I had a career in theater at a very young age, but took a break as I got older when I was encouraged to pursue a "real job." You know, the kind of job that provides you with benefits and health insurance. Well, my real job sent me to New York on business so I decided to go and see Thoroughly Modern Millie. I cried through the entire show, realizing how much I missed performing. It was after that I decided I needed to get back on stage. I flew back to Nashville, returned to dance class, learned monologues and songs and prepared to audition. My first audition was for Guys and Dolls at the Boiler Room Theatre in 2003. I was cast as a Hot Box Dancer and have not stopped since!

Why do you pursue your art in Nashville? What are the best parts of working here? I love working in Nashville, because you can actually work! I am so thankful that there is a community here that really cares about theater, and the arts! I have been working in Nashville for over 10 years and it's exciting to see how each year there are so many new theater companies popping up!

If you could play any role, direct any work, design any production, mount any production...what would it be and why? Honestly, I long for those show experiences that are magical. The ones that have the perfect cast, crew, script, and characters. I can count a handful of shows that I have done where the stars seemed to align and everything just clicked. Urinetown, at the Boiler Room Theatre, was one of those. Once you get to be a part of something like that, you always hope your are lucky enough to experience it again.

Who would play you in the film version of your life story? I hope it would be me. I need the work.

What's your favorite play/musical? I keep coming back to Sweeney Todd for favorite musical. The characters are so dense and the music will haunt you for days. I've seen that show done multiple times and in very different ways, and it never gets old. As far as a play, I love Fat Pig by Neil LaBute. I had the pleasure of costuming the Nashville premiere by Groundworks Theatre last year. I love seeing a play that even days after seeing it, you are still talking about it. Blackbird by Adam Rapp and Long Way Down by Nate Eppler are also at the top of my list.

If you could have dinner with any three figures (living or dead, real or fictional) who are a part of the theater, who would you choose and why? Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, and Kristen Chenoweth's understudy. I have always wanted to talk to Julie Andrews about how she dealt with losing her voice after doing Victor/Victoria. I think she would also give great advice on how to have a successful career and a family. Carol Burnett is my comic timing idol. I would love to know what it feels like to be able to make people laugh like she did. Not to mention getting to hear stories from the Carol Burnett Show days. I can't imagine there being a tougher job that that of the understudy of Kristen Chenoweth. Knowing the audience is a tad hostile as you take the stage must be the hardest circumstance in which to give a great performance. Anyone who can do that must have a bucket of confidence tips to dish out.

Imagine a young person seeing you onstage or seeing a production in which you played a major role coming up to you and asking you for advice in pursuing their own theatrical dream...what would you say? I have a friend who asked this question of Patti LuPone and she said, "practice, practice, practice." I would say not only practice, but "audition, audition, audition."

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis

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