BWW Interview: Heather Botts as Anna in THE KING & I on Tour
THE KING & I is an award winning musical that has enthralled audiences for many years. From its Broadway Premiere in 1951, Rogers and Hammerstein's adaptation of Margaret Landon's novel, "Anna and the King of Siam," and through many revivals and an award winning movie, it has been enjoyed by generation after generation.
As the current tour returns to the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas, BWW had a chance to chat with Heather Botts who will be playing the role of Anna while Laura Michelle Kelly is taking a few weeks off.
When did you first realize that you wanted to perform full-time?
That's a good question. Certainly there were different influences in my life. We figured out I had a talent for singing when I was about 11 or 12. I was in some church musicals and I loved it. But, I had some stage fright. But, I had a natural inclination to be onstage and tell stories. We figured out I could sing so we started some voice lessons with a couple of people in the surrounding area. I realized I had a natural operatic voice and that launched me into solo and ensemble contests and state contests when I was in high school. So, I let go of the sports and went fully into the choir and singing...the classical world. I decided to major in music and theater in college. Then, I honestly took five years off. I was burnt out. I was taking 20 to 22 credits a semester in college to be a double major. In my senior year, I had to culminate both degrees with projects. One was a voice recital and one was a theater performance project. This wasn't any influence from my parents. I wanted to see what else was in the world. So, I decided to move to a bigger city and I worked on the other side of the stage. I was in development and marketing. I was doing special events. I decided to start voice teaching. I had a voice studio. Then about three years into that process, I decided I wanted to go back to grad school. I ended up going to grad school at Oklahoma City University and I got my master's in theater. And that's where things really launched my professional career in 2012.
Let's talk a little bit about the King & I. You're playing Anna for a few weeks while Laura Michelle Kelly is on vacation. You will take over the role for about four weeks.
(I've been just) off-stage. My only job is to go on as Anna if Laura was under the weather.
And you travel with a lot of children. How has that been?
The kids are really, really brilliant. They are very well-behaved children. They're kind. I honestly can't say enough about them. We are truly a family. We started on this journey last September. We spend a lot of our time together. There really isn't anywhere that we're not together so I think they're wonderful. They're talented, they have beautiful hearts, they have great parents. We're really fortunate. It's a crazy life for them if you really think about it.
Who do you think influences you most in your life now and when you were younger? Who inspires you?
I think growing up...I consider myself a throwback. And my mother told me I was born in the wrong generation because I loved watching "Gone with the Wind" and all the Doris Day films. I was always on Time Warner Classics Channel. It was a lot of actors. It was Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand. When they perform, it's almost like they're not singing. They're just communicating. When they perform, it's almost like they're not singing. They're just communicating. That's something today that was really important. And that's why I wanted to study with Florence Birdwell. I would say one of my biggest inspirations today is Florence Birdwell because she said, "If you're worried about how you sound, the audience won't care about anything. They're not going to hear your story. You have to sing the words. The words and the text are the most important parts of what you're doing.
If you were giving advice to someone who was just starting out, what would you tell them?
I would be honest and let people know this is very hard. It's a hard life and it takes a lot of work and a lot of focus because I think there are a lot of talented people in this business. But, when it comes down to it, I think it's perseverance and determination and the hard work you put into your craft every single day.
Don't miss this amazing production of THE KING & I as is comes through town for one week only. The show runs from October 17-22, 2017 at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas. Get tickets at their website.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gayle McCracken